I’ve really struggled to describe my new book to people. I think the reason is that it’s very personal and may not fit with current genres for historical fiction. But one of my beta readers has said that some chapters remind him of Dickens and others of Hardy. While I would never dare to put myself on a level with those masters of 19th century classics, it has made me realise something. I have not written this book to please other people, but myself and if that does not appeal, so be it. My new book, in its small way, is a social commentary on difficult times and how that affected one particular family in the early part of the 19th century. Some of the themes I touch on are women’s place in society; poverty both in agrarian and industrial settings; the casual disregard for life; the influence of religion for both good and ill and the awakening recognition that things must change.
But there are also resonances with life today, especially how the poor are still at the mercy of the powerful, and I don’t mean just economically. The poor are still vilified, only now we are berated by tales of benefit cheats, whereas the reality is that very few people cheat. I recently listened as a reporter from the Daily Mail on television said that such stories sell papers and people don’t want to hear the truth. So certain newspapers are not in the business of reporting truth but obfuscating, how surprising! Plus ça change.
Many fought long and hard to improve living and working conditions. Let’s not slip back to these times. They weren’t so long ago.