The Hourglass Factory - Lucy Ribchester.

I picked up The Hourglass Factory by pure chance one day, mainly being drawn by the intriguing blurb on the back, and the book's interesting & unusual cover, featuring illustrations of the books main elements.

Lucy Ribchester’s debut novel is more than simply a pretty book cover. Full of engaging characters and a well & carefully crafted storyline, The Hourglass Factory is the story of suffragettes, circus acts, Fleet Street journalism powerhouses & politics; mixed in with murder, mystery and mayhem, all set in the dark, murky streets of 1912 London.

The main character is Frankie George, a non-dress wearing tomboy (the complete opposite the to Edwardian ladies of the day), who is an ambitious young reporter.

Frankie is desperately trying to make her big break in journalism & catch her own big headline for the London Evening Gazette, an area of work very much anti-female. Frankie is forced to take the job of assisting Twinkle, an old "girl about town" on her column; ‘Conversations from the Boudoir", articles of which Frankie has little interest in.

Frankie is sent to write a profile and get a picture of trapeze artist come suffragette, Ebony Diamond, who is unwilling to speak to Frankie & damages her camera, but Frankie soon finds herself deep in the disappearance of the mysterious Ebony.

Frankie sets out to find Ebony & solve the mystery of the murders of 2 of Ebony's associates, but to also grab her big story. With the assistance of Millie, otherwise known as Salome, a snake owning belly-dancer with a secret, Liam, an Irish street urchin, and the reluctant Twinkle.

A secondary storyline running through the book is the police response & handling towards the suffragettes. Enter reluctant Inspector Primrose, overworked and sympathetic, surrounded by many thug-like and bent coppers, something that Inspector Primrose hates.

The suffragette campaigns of Mrs Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and the less-militant National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS); and the fear and, in some ways, disgust these campaigns caused society and authorities; such as the police & government, has been well researched & presented, particularly the intense rivalry between the WSPU & NUWSS, something I have learnt from reading this book.

Ribchester's portrayal of Edwardian London is fascinating and thought provoking. Food and drink, theatres, transportation, policing, the media & political opinions and reactions to the suffragette 'threat', the justice & prison systems, the humiliating and inhuman force feeding of hunger striking suffragettes, the expected roles of women in Edwardian society, and the differing opinions on the approach the suffragettes should be taking with their campaigns.

I felt that the characters weren't as well developed as they could have been. For example with Frankie, she is non-conforming to the expectation of how Edwardian women were to behave & look, and she was also against the suffragette campaign. There was also a strained relationship with her mother. None of this was explored, and I felt that Frankie's character could have become quite interesting.

Apart from that I enjoyed the book overall. I particularly loved reading about the suffragettes, a subject I have little knowledge of. It has inspired me to read more about these brave women.

Have you read The Hourglass Factory before? What did you think?

1 comment

  1. My friend lent me this a while back, but I haven't made a start yet. I'm terrible at finding time to read!