Esther Thorel – married into money and privilege, she is an Englishwoman in her late twenties. Her husband Elias is a master silk weaver who married her to the displeasure of his Huguenot family. Vain and self-centered, he becomes increasingly dissatisfied with Esther when she fails to provide him with a child. Esther herself is an artist, but her talent is dismissed by her husband as the trivial pastime of a mere woman… Their marriage, which began with affection has turned into a convenience layered with cold contempt.
Sara Kemp – in her mid-teens, is coerced into prostitution by a wicked old woman who runs a brothel in a tavern. Sara seems to have been easily led, and assumes that she has got the fate that she deserves. Lacking in any self esteem, she accepts her lot in life – until… one of her ‘customers‘ almost kills her and opens her eyes to her dire predicament.
Sara earlier came to the notice of the lady, Esther Thorel. So she now escapes the brothel to work as a maid in the Thorel household thinking that perhaps she can earn back her reputation. Though the two women are like oil and water, they eventually come to form some mutual regard.
“Virtue had a price, which turned out to be relentless hard work and tedium”.
I thoroughly enjoyed my voyage to the past with Esther Thorel and Sara Kemp. Both were women who for various reasons were challenging to like, nonetheless their tragic story was compelling.
With themes of the appalling class divide, child labour, and lack of social support that was prevalent in the eighteenth century, the story speaks to the history of women while centering the story around the actual silk weavers revolts that took place in the 1760s.
The silk weavers laboured from sun-up until sundown to produce about a yard of silk. If someone cut a piece of silk it was considered serious enough to merit hanging.
Well written and well researched “Blackberry and Wild Rose” was an outstanding debut novel. The author took actual events and spun them into a fictional story which will delight readers who appreciate historical fiction. Highly recommended.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Blackstone Publishing via Edelweiss.
Sonia Velton grew up between the Bahamas and the UK. After graduating from university with a first class law degree, she qualified as a solicitor at an international law firm, later going on to specialise in discrimination law. Sonia relocated to the Middle East in 2006. Eight years and three children later she returned to the UK and now lives in Kent. Blackberry and Wild Rose, inspired by real characters and historical events, was short-listed for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress, was longlisted for the Mslexia novel competition, and is Sonia’s first novel.
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