Over the last few months, I’ve been along to three book launches by fellow Honno authors.
But since I’ve had a busy summer and early autumn, I haven’t had the chance to review any of those novels. Now life is a little calmer, and so I’m going to start putting that right.
My first review is of ‘A Hundred Tiny Threads’ by Judith Barrow.
Judith grew up in the Pennines but has lived in Pembrokeshire for nearly forty years.
Here’s my review…
I so look forward to losing myself in an engrossing read at the end of a hectic day, and Judith Barrow’s ‘A Hundred Tiny Threads’ fits the bill beautifully.
Judith has skillfully crafted a wonderful set of characters – some I love (Winifred, her grandmother & Honora) while some I loathe (Winifred’s husband and mother) but all are well rounded and believable. One of Judith’s many strengths is that she writes with a warmth for her characters that emanates from the pages, and she somehow manages to be fair to them all, too, even the ne’er-do-wells. Subtly, she helps us see how they’ve become the people they are, and the source of their strengths and failings. The dialogue is always natural, descriptions are vivid and flow easily, and I was very quickly drawn into Winifred’s world.
Winifred is one half of the couple that ‘a hundred tiny threads’ holds together.
We follow her as she grows from a young girl to a married woman with a family, and I felt I had a vested interest in her happiness. She’s a young, single woman at the start of the novel, working in her parents’ grocery shop with little time off. When she meets Irish artist Honora, who has an independent lifestyle, Winifred’s attitude to her own life begins to change. Honora encourages her to join the Suffrage Movement, against her domineering mother’s wishes. And it’s when she’s protesting with the Suffragettes that Winifred begins to fall for Honora’s brother, Conal – a love affair that changes the course of her life forever.
But never far away is Bill, who’s a very troubled character.
Bill’s actions are sometimes unforgivable. However, we’re shown why he has come to behave the way he does – not only is he damaged by a childhood devoid of love, but like so many men of his generation Bill has had horrific war experiences.
Judith doesn’t shy away from describing the sheer brutality of WW1. The scenes in the trenches feel very authentic, stomach-churningly so at times, but that all adds to the atmosphere of the novel. The atrocities Bill witnessed and perpetrated in Ireland with the Black and Tans are also unflinchingly portrayed.
The setting of this novel has clearly been researched very thoroughly indeed, but the reader never gets the sense that historical detail is there for anything other than the flow of the story and development of the characters – a real skill in this genre.
While ‘A Hundred Tiny Threads’ is the prequel to Judith’s Howarth Family Trilogy and tells the story of the parents of Mary, the main protagonist in the three other books, it also works very well as a stand-alone novel. It makes a wonderful starting point for those who’ve never read the others, and I’m sure Judith’s many fans won’t need any encouragement to delve into this new novel and lose themselves for hours in Winifred and Bill’s back story.
I was intrigued by Winifred’s friend, Honora and her brother Conal’s story too. They were very interesting and lively characters. I wonder if, sometime in the future, Judith could be persuaded to let us in on their secrets too!
‘A Hundred Tiny Threads’ is another excellent novel from a wonderful writer & storyteller and I thoroughly recommend the whole series.
Other books in the Howarth Family Saga series:
‘Pattern of Shadows’, ‘Changing Patterns’ & ‘Living in the Shadows’.
Judith Barrow, Christoph Fischer and me at the launch for ‘A Hundred Tiny Threads’ at Waterstones, Carmarthen
Buy Judith’s new novel from Honno
Buy from Amazon
Follow Judith’s blog
Sara’s debut novel ‘Not Thomas’ – a story of child neglect, love and hope, shown through the eyes of five-year-old Tomos – is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher, from Amazon and from bookshops.