19 July 2009

Review: CROOKED PIECES by Sarah Grazebrook *****

"Maggie seems to be going up in the world. Compared to living with her large and impoverished East London family and watching her mother being worn down by life and childbearing, working as a maid is a big improvement. Meeting very different people like the Pankhursts, Maggie is introduced to a completely different world, one in which people talk about women getting the vote and organise impressive rallies and demonstrate at Parliament. Then when she meets and begins 'walking out' with a handsome police officer, it seems like a whole new horizon has opened up for her.
Drawn into the workings of the suffragette movement, Maggie is soon caught up in a darker side of the increasingly militant cause. The brutal treatment she and her fellows suffer might make them all more determined to achieve their goal, but just how much is Maggie prepared to sacrifice?"


Judging by the plot summary, I fully expected to really enjoy this book, but I didn't expect to be blown away - and I was, by everything, the plot, the characters, the writing, it's all so amazing and fitting.

The beginning of the book is perhaps a bit slow and I admit I found the narrative somewhat difficult to follow as it's quite old-fashioned (the book takes place a hundred years ago, which is reflected in the writing), but as I got sucked into the story, I started enjoying the narration too and it actually really added to the whole reading experience and made it more believable.

The plot is fascinating to say the least. I discovered a lot of new things about the suffragettes by reading Falling Angels and it's amazing how similar it occassionaly is to Crooked Pieces, which shows that both authors researched the subject well. Both novels deal with suffragettes in London at in the 1900s, they both feature fierce women who get sent to the same prison (Holloway) for standing up for themselves (albeit violently) and they also have several characters (namely the Pankhurts) and even events in common (e.g. Women's Sunday). I really loved Falling Angels and I felt that these two books really complemented each other well and provided different views on the suffragette movement, even though this subject was far more prominent and crucial in Crooked Pieces.

I consider myself a feminist and thus I obviously support gender equality, which is almost self-understood today, but I imagine that very few people actually realize what a hard battle women (in this case the suffragettes) fought in order to be able to vote and work and study and speak their mind etc. Oh yes, as clearly illustrated in this book, it was a brutal fight (literally) and I just wish people would respect their efforts more instead of simply dismissing them or calling them crazy or whatever. Looking back now, some might say that they went too far or that their fight was too violent when really they were just incredible and strong women who realized that being all ladylike and nice won't get them anywhere so they decided to take matters into their own hands. They demanded to have equal rights as men and demanded the vote to symbolize this, but no matter what strategy they chose, their requests were always declined. Yes, I suppose we could say they crossed the line several times by breaking the law, but their battle was unprecedented so they had no one to look up to and thus fought the best way they could. I'm aware that the suffragette movement had its downsides and negative consequences, but personally I truly respect those women who were brave enough to stand up for themselves and demanded to be treated as human beings.

Apart from providing fascinating insight into the life of suffragettes and their battles, the novel also features a wonderful love story between a suffragette and a policeman, which is like a bond between two mortal enemies. Maggie and Fred fall in love against all odds and their relationship is just so sweet. I really liked how their relationship developed from a small crush into love and I was happy that Maggie finally found some happiness as her life has always been miserable and this seemed like the one thing that made it all better.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, but I admit I wasn't too fond of the cover at first - I just thought it was boring and the girl looked sort of posessed, heh. But after finishing the book, I discovered that the cover is actually quite fitting and a cutey little cover would just ruin everything. This book is anything but cute, it's brutal and fierce and mostly powerful, which I suppose is reflected in the cover (if only it wasn't green as I cannot stand that cover but okay).

As for characterization, I can't say Maggie is my favourite character ever, but she was definitely well portrayed. Yes, she had her flaws, but on the whole she was a great and strong yet kind protagonist. The first-person narrative provided sufficent insight into her thoughts so that her actions and motivations were understandable, although not always admirable.

All in all, I really truly enjoyed this novel very much and I could discuss it all night as it raises some very important points about gender equality, the suffragette movement, the life as it was a hundred years ago etc. I'm hardly surprised that the book became the July Book Club Choice - it really does provide a lot of material for discussion. I wish I had a book club to properly discuss it with, heh. I'll be adding it to the list of my all-time favourites as I would strongly recommend it to *everyone* in order to learn more about this important movement that is often criticized and not respected. You'd be suprised how fascinating the suffragettes really were and honestly, you couldn't possibly wish for a better book about the subject!

overall rating: 5/5
plot: 5/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 4/5


Alicia said...

Wow! I've never heard of this book, but it certainly sounds amazing! I'll have to check it out!

BTW-I've nominated you for another award


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