Author: Lisa Brown

Publisher: First Edition Design Publishing

ISBN 978-1622-874-03-0

ISBN 978-1622-874-04-7 (Ebook)

I feel very brave, having just crossed the Atlantic by steamship in 1904.

THE PORTER’S WIFE is the most realistic “crossing over’ story I have read. Prepare yourself for several nights staying up late with this richly detailed contrast of soot-stained, industrial England with fresh, new Ontario, Canada, at the dawn of the Twentieth Century. The realism, with painful details, is enormously valuable for readers addicted to historical fiction. Yes, there is romance, but it is not romantic. It is a woman’s story, with attention to feelings that matter as much today as they did then: a mother alone and frightened, making difficult decisions that will change her life and her children’s, with no guarantees.

Lisa Brown sketched in the background and events for Sarah Berry’s family while doing her own genealogical research. Her fascinating notes range from the way poor people were buried to the management of factories and tramways. She manages to slow the pace to the hoof beat of the cart horse and suspend time where there was no means of immediate communication. I especially appreciated descriptions of transportation: the tedious crisscrossing Manchester to deliver people by horse carriage; danger in getting off the local tram ride in the dark; the steamship rolling in rough seas and subsequent struggle to keep clean when people are vomiting.

I like her vivid reminders of how our lives are different now. We have hygiene, welfare, and employee rights. When you emigrated in 1904 there was no turning back, no phone calls or Emails. A lucky inheritance of fifty pounds took care of children for a while and set up a business, but that was all you had – no social security – so when someone shared a supply of fudge it was a very big deal, and if you could sew beautiful clothes, it would save your life. If you had relatives who paved the way, you could make it as long as you were healthy.

Lisa Brown depicts social attitudes convincingly in nuances of speech. She impresses us with the gift of close friendships, so few, and often abruptly ended. She has created a laudable heroine and introduced many characters that would be worth getting to know better. The author’s command of the language is remarkable. If the dialogue is a bit stilted in places and the narrative at times seems didactic, I forgive her, for she wants to share so much she found out about that period; I think she inhabits it. I learned more than I ever did in history classes, and I felt it, too. Lisa Brown succeeded in hooking me and I wait eagerly for the sequel to THE PORTER’S WIFE, which she has promised.

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