Well, it’s happened. I’ve returned to Australia. I’m actually writing this from a food court in Adelaide because if I go home I’ll get into bed and if I get into bed I’ll want to sleep and I can’t sleep because it’s only 12:45pm.
Anyway, I managed to read a grand total of three books during my flights from Edinburgh to Adelaide. I’ll only be reviewing one of them today, I’ll save the other reviews for another day (perhaps when I haven’t quite finished a book that week and I need something to review).
Title: The Hourglass Factory
Author: Lucy Ribchester
Genre: Historical Fiction
Date completed: February 22nd 2016
Goodreads rating: 4 stars
1912 and London is in turmoil…
The suffragette movement is reaching fever pitch but for broke Fleet Street tomboy Frankie George, just getting by in the cut-throat world of newspapers is hard enough. Sent to interview trapeze artist Ebony Diamond, Frankie finds herself fascinated by the tightly laced acrobat and follows her across London to a Mayfair corset shop that hides more than one dark secret.
Then Ebony Diamond mysteriously disappears in the middle of a performance, and Frankie is drawn into a world of tricks, society columnists, corset fetishists, suffragettes and circus freaks. How did Ebony vanish, who was she afraid of, and what goes on behind the doors of the mysterious Hourglass Factory?
From the newsrooms of Fleet Street to the drawing rooms of high society, the missing Ebony Diamond leads Frankie to the trail of a murderous villain with a plot more deadly than anyone could have imagined…
With a major film, Suffragette, starring Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham-Carter and Carey Mulligan coming soon, suffragettes will be back in the limelight once again, nearly one hundred years after they fought for votes for women.
I’m going to be totally upfront and say that I met Lucy Ribchester in Edinburgh whilst we were both on a history tour – we were the last two people left in the room with all the information boards after the tour if that tells you anything about both of us. Now, Lucy didn’t give me this book, nor did she ask me to read it or review it. I told her I would check out her writing (after all, how often do you meet a fellow writer in the city you call home and dream of relocating to permanently), and once I read the blurb of The Hourglass Factory I was hooked. So there’s my disclaimer – I met Lucy, but I wasn’t asked/paid/encouraged to read and review her book. Just in case any of you were worried.
Anyway, I really enjoyed The Hourglass Factory. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book before about the Suffragettes, particularly not a novel. I wasn’t really taught about it in High School history (despite the fact Australia and New Zealand were pretty damn progressive about the whole votes for women thing), and aside from seeing the movie Suffragette, Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins, and my own general (basic) knowledge, it’s just not something I’ve been exposed to frequently. Which, by the way, is absurd. How can such an important part of 20th century history simply be glossed over or, even worse, ignored all together. I, we, all women, have so much to thank people like the Suffragettes for – voting rights, education, equal status, just to name a few. So I was really excited to read a book about the Suffragette movement, written by a woman.
The characterisation in The Hourglass Factory was great. On the whole I really enjoyed the main character Frankie. It was refreshing to have a female lead who was a journalist and a bit out of shape. Whilst her being a tom-boy was pretty expected, it was also somewhat necessary for the plot. I mean, she’s working as a journalist in 1912 London, living away from her family and trying to be taken seriously in the very male dominated world of newspapers and printing. I also really enjoyed that although she’s clearly a very empowered and self-assured woman, Frankie is never actually part of the Suffragette movement. In so many ways she is a feminist – she wants to be giving equal job opportunities as the men working at the paper, she wears trousers because they’re more practical than skirts, she doesn’t wear makeup or perfume, she thinks that women will eventually have the vote, and yet she’s not really a suffragette. Having her as separate from the suffragette movement really added to her characterisation and represented the other women in 1900s British society – the women who were ‘feminists’ not out of an ideal for the future or based off an ideology, but because of necessity.
The side characters were equally as well developed, from Milly the aristocrat-turned-burlesque dancer who was just as strong and stubborn as Frankie behind her skirts and makeup, to Liam the young Irish boy whose pride occasionally slipped to reveal a more tender, vulnerable side. The contrast between Detective Primrose – struggling to do his job in part Scotland Yard’s special Suffragette branch whilst worrying about his wife and trying to work out if the Suffragettes really are as bad as everyone says, and his superior who despises the Suffragettes and everything they stand for, was a refreshing take on the ‘police vs women’ attitude often presented. I never felt as though any of the characters I ‘met’ were underdeveloped or shallow – they all had their own complications and motivations that made them feel real, as though Lucy had simply discovered letters and diaries of these very real people and put them together.
I listened to the book on audible whilst flying from London to Singapore, and I must say it was a very easy read. Time absolutely flew by whilst I was listening to it – not an easy feat to achieve on a 12 hour flight! My only issue with The Hourglass Factory was that I found the ending slightly rushed. Although it did a good job summarising everything I found myself wishing there’d just been a little bit more plot to read.
Overall though, The Hourglass Factory was great, and I can’t wait to read Lucy’s next book!