There’s never a good time to be ill but receiving Susanna Bavin’s new book in the post the day before I was struck down with the latest school lurgy (thanks, Freya) certainly helped soften the blow.
While a full body ache, temperature and sore throat were not ideal, a day tucked up in bed was just the ticket – and I was soon lost in the story of The Poor Relation.
It has more drama than a Netflix box set, together with romance, mystery, intrigue and a captivating look at the social history of the period.
Only a short way through and I was almost glad to be poorly because I didn’t have to put it down!
Here’s the blurb:
Manchester, 1908. Attractive, intelligent Mary Maitland is furious to learn that her pompous boss will never promote her, simply because she is a woman. Despite financial support from her family, Mary is determined to strike out on her own and earn a living. She finds work at a women’s employment agency, where her talent for writing is noticed and she begins publishing articles for newspapers and magazines.
But in the face of strong opinions from her well-to-do family on the role of a woman, is it possible to be a dutiful daughter at the same time as spreading her wings?
I find this era fascinating but as a woman and a journalist, this tale really resonated with me.
I could almost feel Mary’s frustration at the way she was treated, simply because she was born female. The horrors experienced by those campaigning for women’s suffrage were brought to life in this book. I found myself, once again, grateful to all the women who paved the way for me, even though, as recent events reveal, we still have some way to go.
As if life wasn’t hard enough for Mary, she also has to contend with the posh side of the family, the Kimbers. Despite hardly seeing them, the connection seemed to dictate proper behaviour, which was both stifling and bewildering.
It’s not only Mary’s story we encounter but also that of the lovely Dr Nathaniel Brewer, Lady Christina Kimber, who I had high hopes for, at first, and the villain of the piece, Greg Rawley, who was easy to dislike.
One of my favourite characters was the wily Helen Rawley who, had she been born a decade or so later, would have been among those publicly fighting for women’s rights, I’m sure.
This is Susanna’s fourth book and I have declared each one my favourite. The same goes for The Poor Relation. Her writing seems to go from strength to strength (and the first one was already amazing).
Now, how to plan some germs in for her next release…
With thanks to Susanna and her publishers Allison and Busby for the ARC of this fabulous book.