Tuesday, 22 August 2017

A HUNDRED TINY THREADS by Judith Barrow @barrow_judith

4.5 out of 5 stars

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How I discovered this book:  I'd read the rest of this series and was looking forward to this prequel.  I highly recommend the short stories attached to the series, Secrets.

This is the fourth book in the Pattern of Shadows series, though in some ways the first, because it's the prequel to the others, which are set in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.  I'd recommend reading it first, anyway.  It spans the years 1911 to 1923, and tells the story of earlier members of the Howarth family.

So, there was me thinking this was going to be an 'eh-up, love, put the kettle on' family drama amongst the cobbles, with a bit of WW1 angst thrown in.  I was wrong; it's so much more than that, and far more interesting.  The book starts with Winifred Duffy, daughter of 'orrible Ethel, joining up with some enchanting Irish scallywags with irritating dialogue tics who are involved in the fight for the women's vote.  The story was jogging along in a modest fashion, until (enter stage left) along came Winifred's grandmother, Florence, who I loved, and whose story was heartbreaking.  A moment later I was reintroduced to Bill Howarth (Mr Prologue), a thoroughly unlikeable character who grew increasingly despicable, and all of a sudden I realised I was engrossed.  I do love a well-written nasty piece of work, and Judith Barrow has done a masterful job with Howarth.  He'd had a bad start in life, yes, but I didn't pity him; my loathing of him grew more intense as the book progressed.

The saga moves through the treatment of the suffragettes, lost love, unwanted pregnancy, dark family secrets, the evil, pointless horror of WW1, the general godawful fate of the impoverished classes, the 1919 influenza epidemic, the atrocities committed by the Black and Tans ~ this is no rose-tinted piece of nostalgia, and no detail is spared.  Saddest of all is the life of Winifred, in many ways; although she finds some degrees of happiness, the theme all the way through seemed to be how women of the time had to put up and shut up, and accept what they got, even if it was so much less than they deserved.  This aspect of the book is so well done, without being hammered home.  I was pleased that, although there was resolution, there was no great happy ending.  100 Tiny Threads is about real life, and quite an eye-opener it is too; it made me glad I wasn't born fifty years earlier, for sure.

When I got to the end, I wanted to nip back to Pattern of Shadows, set in WW2, to find out what happened to Bill and Winifred; it's two or three years since I read it, and I can't remember.  D'you know, I think I will.

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for this great review, Terry. Bill's only redemption is his love for Winifred. Still... as you say...

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    1. I saw that as unhealthy obsession, rather than love!!!

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  2. Looking forward to this one....

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