My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Time taken to read - 1 day
Pages - 320
Publisher - Unbound
Source - Netgalley
Blurb from Goodreads
It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.
Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.
More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents. His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.
He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.
Firstly, I just want to comment on the cover, mine was an eBook however the cover for the paperback is exactly as the wee attached picture. It has so much detail without being over the top, flashy or in your face but when you pick it up and actually look at it, especially after reading the story, it is really something. The story itself concentrates on three main characters, Jean starting in 1911, Connie in 1954 and up to date is Fred in 2016. Three characters in different times, relatively different circumstances, different individuals all with one thing in common, sewing machines. It doesn't sound like a massive pull or overly interesting but guys, trust me, this is a great wee book.
Jean is torn between doing what is right, supporting her fellow workers in a time when every penny really does count and going against her father to take part in a strike that impacts on her future. Connie is a genteel soul, living with her mother and settled in what little life has given her, a dab hand with her sewing machine she has no idea her skills will bring forth change to her life. And lastly Fred, his life is upside down, a bereavement brings much changes and he commences on a journey of self examination and growth with unexpected surprises along the way.
Oh you would think anything about a sewing machine, especially with three individuals having them in their stories to be dull, a chore to get into. You would be absolutely wrong, this book is a gem that has many layers revealing its history and with each chapter drawing the reader into the world of families, relationships, hardships and issues that are evident for each despite the time differences.
For me I think the book grabbed me more because bereavements are in it and we just lost a family member last week. The act of going through his family history in memories from the flat, Fred is discovering as much about himself as he is his grandparents. Clearing out a home conjures up so many memories and questions not to mention emotions, the author encapsulates this perfectly. Sentences written that are absolutely time appropriate, words used both things that evoked personal memories for me and I imagine other readers. "...she heard their firmly-sprung letter box snapped closed." I remember the brass letterboxes we all had in the eighties that did exactly that, along with ripping the top layer of skin off before it banged shut.
I don't feel I am doing this book justice but it is hard to give examples without giving anything away, the book is beautifully written and you would never guess this is a debut novel. The authors voice is strong and she has a gift for bringing you into a time where even if you weren't born then you can easily envision the time, smells, sounds, feelings and issues. Three timelines go along with the main characters and are clearly marked, signposted and easy to follow. I genuinely hope this author is working on her next novel, maybe more from these characters or in the same period. I do love books that give unexpected gifts and trips down memory lane are something you are always grateful for. 4/5 for me this time, thanks to Netgalley for bringing a book to my attention I may have otherwise have missed. I will be buying a copy of this for a few friends who I think will enjoy it as much, if not more, than I have, an author worth watching I think!