Wednesday 10 March 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ A Respectable Woman by Susanna Bavin

Allison & Busby

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

After losing everything she holds dear in the Great War, Nell believes that marrying Stan Hibbert will help to recapture the loving family feeling she has lost. Five years on, she is just another penny-pinching, back-street housewife. When she discovers Stan is leading a double-life, she runs away to make a fresh start elsewhere.

Nell forges a new life for herself and her children in Manchester, working in a garment factory as a talented machinist. Her neighbours and colleagues believe she is a respectable widow – even her children think their father is dead – but when the past comes back to haunt her, Nell is faced with a court trial and will have to answer for her actions.

πŸ“– My thoughts..

I discovered this author's historical fiction last year when I read The Deserter's Daughter and was immediately impressed with her writing style and the authenticity of the historical setting. I am delighted to say that A Respectable Woman follows in the same absorbing style.

The story opens in 1922, when the country is adjusting to life after the Great War. Nell Hibbert is forced to take a long look at her circumstances when she discovers that her husband, Stan is leading a double life, and so, together with her young son, Nell flees to Manchester where she presents herself as a young widow. Life is a struggle, making ends meet is something of a challenge and with no man to help her Nell must become the sole breadwinner. 

What comes across so strongly is the resilience of the northern spirit in close knit communities amongst people who have next to nothing materially, and yet they do everything they can to support those who can't always help themselves. The small, terraced streets where Nell makes her home could be any northern town, and the characters, who are portrayed so vividly, remind me so much of my own northern heritage. Strong, no nonsense women, who think nothing of caring for other women's children, well, what's one or two more when you already have a houseful of your own. However, for all the poverty and hardship, this is the story of a respectable woman who only wants to survive and care for her family. And yet as we discover throughout the course of the story, life is not going to be easy for Nell Hibbert and there are many obstacles to overcome before she can find the happiness she so richly deserves.

A Respectable Woman is a beautifully written historical saga which has all the little nuances of historical detail which make this author's work such a joy to read. The author brings to life a story which is packed full of action, from the sewing room of a Manchester clothing factory, to sharing  a pot of strong tea, and a chat, in the back kitchen of a Chorlton terrace, there is never a moment when the story doesn't draw you into a forgotten way of life. Throughout A Respectable Woman there's pathos, danger and despair, but there's also humour and a strong sense of community, and in Nell Hibbert we have a feisty heroine whose fascinating story stays with you long after the last page is turned.

About the Author

Susanna Bavin has variously been an librarian, an infant school teacher, a carer and a cook. She  lives in Llandudno in North Wales but her writing is inspired by her Manchester roots.

Twitter @SusannaBavin

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