I actually read this as the second book I finshed in December, however I had picked it off the shelf to read because a friend had it on a wishlist and I’d drawn her as my Secret Santa in one of the three we’re both in (it’s a wonder we’ve never drawn each other in all three, although I bought for her in this one last year, too). Anyway, I’ve delayed publication of this post until I’m pretty sure she’ll have opened it and known it was from me!

Ellen Wilkinson – “Clash”

(30 November 2018, from Kaggsy)

Well, who would have thought that a novel about the 1926 General Strike would be a page-turner with a lot to say about women’s roles and choices at that time? I do normally steer clear of books including real-life characters, but the politicians are in the background and the main character is autobiographical, but I knew little about Wilkinson’s life (until I read the Introduction) and the other characters are disguised and combined portraits at most, apparently. Bloomsbury also encroaches on the story, but in the form of a wealthy woman on the edges of literary circles, funding plays and publications rather than producing them herself.

As well as the story of the general strike and fundraising for coal miners’ families after it ends, we also see what the other struggles were at the time. Do you accept the support of the moneyed rich, knowing they will never understand the working class or poverty and always at risk of sinking too far into luxury? And what happens when the man you love wants to keep you in a gilded cage of a flat and not allow you to work because women are just for love and families, really? Well, in the latter case, you make a hard decision and stick to it, and in the former, you live and learn.

Joan is slightly hero-worshipped, but I wonder if she’s the woman Wilkinson wanted to be, and makes the decisions she wanted to make (I may be reading too much into the introduction). Anyway, it’s a good and interesting read with many facets and great supporting characters.