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Island Life, Word Birds & Process #23

I rarely add book reviews here. I don’t have many followers & this is where I tend to rattle on about my own writing. If I can’t support a sister Honno author here however, where can I? Well, yes, on Amazon & I’ve done that – we all know who’s in charge of promotion & stats!

*Curtsies to Amazon*

Juliet Greenwood writes historical mystery stories with a twist. She lives in north Wales, has a penchant for Cornwall (as do I) old houses (me too) & a story with a secret (tick.) She is unswervingly kind to other authors. She also has great taste in frocks.

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The White Camellia, is published by Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press. It’s fabulous.

My review

This is Juliet Greenwood’s third novel and in my view, her best to date. Her writing has matured, settings are beautifully drawn; characters leap off the page insisting on being heard. And in The White Camellia, they have a great deal to say. The women in particular, although the author writes men well – the good, the bad and the ones you really couldn’t give tuppence for!

Anyone interested in the grass roots aspect of the women’s suffrage movement will be intrigued by this story. Set aside for a while the more famously chronicled activities of Mrs Pankhurst, her suffragettes and her campaign of direct action. Take a seat in The White Camellia tearoom; listen in to the less subversive conversations that nevertheless led to equally effective agitation. It was in tearooms such as this one where many women first experienced a level of independence, found their voice and began campaigning for the right to vote. This is an extremely well researched book about what it meant to be a woman at the turn of the century, fighting (literally sometimes) for the vote. A woman didn’t need to be aggressive or actively militant to be arrested or attacked by the police and the prison system. Simply photographing the abusive methods of the police could land you in jail and lead to force-feeding, a particularly vile form of torture that left many women’s health utterly ruined.

The story begins gently – the author creates a perfect sense of the time, with an undertow of excitement that gradually emerges. Set in London and in the author’s beloved Cornwall, we first meet Beatrice, in the capital, picking up the pieces of her family’s shattered fortune, while discovering her courage as a woman in a world where men’s voices rule. In Cornwall, Sybil moves into Tressillion, a house with a dark past. These two women – with more in common that they know – are gradually drawn together by an old secret.

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It’s an intimate book on a grand scale, full of real people you care for. It has all the elements of great historical mystery: adventure, suspense, secrets and drama. And the right amount of romance to lighten the mood. Above all, it’s a book about the bravery of women, our foresisters whose courageous struggle, sadly, some of us still take for granted. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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