Prepare to be totally engrossed in this novel. It’s one of those books you should begin in the morning and cancel all engagements for because you’re not going to want to put it down. If you don’t begin reading it until later in the day you’ll be up way past your bedtime to see how it ends and then you’ll be sad because it’s finished and you’re wanting more. I loved it and yes, I did stay up way past my bedtime to finish it.
Based on a true story, this novel narrates the life of Ellen Hardy born in 1900. (Incidentally the same year as my own paternal grandmother). It is narrated through Ellen’s eyes beginning when she is a canny six year old living in very poor surroundings battling to be recognised by kith and kin as the kind and helpful girl she, and we, know she is.
It’s a vibrant novel, full of life and colour – in dialogue, experience and surroundings. I was drawn into Ellen’s world straight away. Her voice, with just the right amount of dialect, has wonderful turns of phrase . I was rooting for her from the start willing her to overcome the physical and emotional difficulties she encounters. She’s a tough little cookie when she has to be with a heart of gold. Her observations on life, as she grows up are perceptive beyond her years and you just know she is going to succeed in some way through true grit and backbone. You also know it’s not going to be an easy ride for her.
This “flattie” (outsider/not a fair person) was fascinated by the descriptions of the travelling fair, particularly the setting up, taking down and moving on. I could picture the crowds, the atmosphere and the stands. I wonder if “flattie” is a regional term referring to people living in the flat landscape of the fens or whether it is a countrywide term. I now know exactly what the term “running numbers” means and how it works. Thank you LK Wilde for enlightening me on this, it’s puzzled me for years.
This is the second LK Wilde novel I have read. Silver Darlings set in 1895 published in 2021 entranced me with its fascinating account of the herring industry on the east coast. I advise everyone who reads this review to read Silver Herrings too. I shall be among those first in the queue for novel number three.