| ABOUT THE BOOK |
When Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.
Inside the Thorels’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.
It is silk that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she strikes up a relationship with one of the journeyman weavers in her attic who teaches her to weave and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household.
| MY THOUGHTS |
As someone who has recently rediscovered her love for historical fiction, I’ve truly been spoilt lately. Sure, a nice gruesome murder or a bunch psychological games is fun to read about but there is something about being transported to ages long ago that totally captures my imagination.
Upon arriving in Spitalfields, Sara Kemp immediately lands herself in a whole heap of trouble. She is rescued by Esther Thorel, the wife of a prominent silk weaver, who offers Sara the position of being her maid. Not quite Sara’s dream job but definitely a step up from where she found herself. This marks the start of a rather uneasy relationship that will affect their lives.
I must say this didn’t at all turn out the way I expected it to and I was pleasantly surprised. Some of the silk weaving technicalities went completely over my head but as that wasn’t the be all and end all of the story, that didn’t really bother me. Because what matters far most is the divide between the upper and the lower classes and the battle a woman faces when she wants to do something men don’t think she’s meant for.
There’s a whole cast of extremely unlikeable characters. So much so that I’m hard pressed to decide which one I actually disliked the most. Yet, that too didn’t bother me because all the lies, deceit and betrayal made for one immersive story. And let’s not forget to mention the rich and vivid descriptions of 1860’s London that create the most wonderful atmosphere.
There is much to enjoy about this historical fiction novel and I went through a whole range of emotions, from anger to frustration to a touch of sadness at how unfair life can be. I learned quite a bit along the way too, which is always a bonus. Make sure to read the author’s notes, by the way. Blackberry & Wild Rose is a remarkable debut by Sonia Velton and I will most definitely be keeping my eye on her in future.
With thanks to the publisher for my review copy!
Blackberry & Wild Rose is available to buy!