Title: A Hundred Tiny Threads
Author: Judith Barrow
Published: 17 August 2017
Publisher: Hono Welsh Women’s Press
Pages: 320 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 5 Stars
Welsh Books Councils Book Of The Month in January 2018:
About the book
Winifred is a determined young woman eager for new experiences, for a life beyond the grocer’s shop counter ruled over by her domineering mother. When her friend Honora – an Irish girl, with the freedom to do as she pleases – drags Winifred along to a suffragette rally, she realises that there is more to life than the shop and her parents’ humdrum lives of work and grumbling. Bill Howarth’s troubled childhood echoes through his early adult life and the scars linger, affecting his work, his relationships, and his health. The only light in his life comes from a chance meeting with Winifred, the daughter of a Lancashire grocer. The girl he determines to make his wife. Meeting Honora’s intelligent and silver-tongued medical student brother turns Winifred’s heart upside down and she finds herself suddenly pregnant. Bill Howarth reappears on the scene offering her a way out.
Judith Barrow’s extremely well crafted, gritty, no-nonsense characters- a trademark in all of her novels – simply grab hold of the insides of your gut. In her stories so far, there always seems to be a strong, compelling well-written female protagonist and a strong, compelling yet deeply despicable man. Her characters stifle cries of outrage within the reader and in this particular book- which is the prequel to her family saga trilogy- she demands that you study the tiny threads, the origins that create the Duffy/Howarth family’s tapestry. Also, the tiny threads creating the flipside family rope that so often strangles hope – the hope of them ever breaking out of unhealthy family patterns, passed down through the generations, seen in the trilogy.
We observe the bravery of the Suffragette movement and the gear change in women’s liberation, bringing challenges on the domestic front through the eyes of Winifred and absorb the compelling backdrop of the dire First World War and the unforgiving callous behaviour of the Black and Tans. Judith pushes the reader into these frontlines and into these volatile worlds where we can, I think, surely comprehend- though with unease – that even the most undesirable character can be called nasty and a victim at the same time, and in the same breath.
This is the fourth book in the family saga but as its the prequel, if embarking on Judith’s work for the first time I would recommend reading this first, though the trilogy in any order are gripping, stand-alone reads.
To find out more about Judith Barrow and her books click on the links below.