‘I can never make any sense of what happened to you, Ethel. There were people had it in for you and I don’t know why. I think you were a soft target for cruel men.’
Timid Ethel Slater grows up in a squalid terraced house in a railway community in 1950s York. Perpetually at the mercy of the men she encounters, she falls pregnant out of wedlock, retreats into obscurity and gives birth alone at home. When her newborn is found dead in her bedroom a few days later and fatal head injuries are discovered at the post-mortem, Ethel breaks and confesses to the killing.
On trial for murder, Ethel is plunged into a legal world she does not understand. The voices of well-meaning neighbours who give evidence are twisted and distorted by their own secrets and fears. Ethel faces the death sentence for a brutal crime she may not have committed. The right questions are asked, but in this secretive and insular community, nobody can ever be sure of the right answers.
Phil Batman has known he wanted to be a pathologist for as long as he can remember. He completed his medical education at Cambridge University and then trained as a pathologist at St George’s Hospital in London. He subsequently specialised in the investigation of suspicious deaths of babies. He became an expert in the medico-legal defence of some parents charged with their murder, felt the agonising doubts between innocence and guilt and witnessed miscarriage of justice. Phil lives in Ilkley, West Yorkshire.
Phil cornelius (Guest Review) - 24 Aug, 2023
I really enjoyed phil batmans 'our ethel' as the characters in the story were well defined and the author gave a very convincing sense of tough life in the fifties.the story itself was not an easy read as we quickly learn ethels fate as a very vulnerable girl with very little hope nevertheless somewhere a strand of light.well written but not over sentimental.highly reccommended.!!.
Michael Freeman (Guest Review) - 13 Aug, 2023
I very good read and good depiction of life in the 1950's. I thoroughly enjoyed the book
Debbie Greaves (Guest Review) - 29 Oct, 2023
A good book club choice
I enjoyed this book so much I recommended it to our group. Although it is set in the early 1950s, many of the issues have resonance today and there's plenty to unpick in discussion; the harrowing story of Ethel herself, put to trial when what she most needed was compassion and care, the legal process and the way it can make or break people as they travel through the system, police corruption, the impact of poverty and hardship, and the role of family and community.
Our Ethel is a compelling page turner and truly evocative of the time and place. A Yorkshire lass myself, I could picture the area well and the lived experience of people in post war York . Highly recommended. I'll be looking out for Phil Batman’s next novel.
Robert Angell (Guest Review) - 29 Oct, 2023
My wife encouraged me to read this. I wasn't expecting a courtroom drama, or for it to be so impactful. I was quickly drawn in to the narrative and it was easy to be empathetic with Ethel who was clearly a victim of police incompetence and her own lack of power and intellect.
I was disappointed that most of the men, with one exception, seemed to be either feckless, cruel, misogynistic, lazy or damaged but maybe this is a reflection of the time. I was interested to read that Phil Batman was himself a pathologist. He clearly brought his experience and knowledge into the storyline which gave it more authenticity. Well worth a read.