Things That Bounded by Fiona Graph – a novel of suffragettes and London after the First World War

Things That Bounded by Fiona Graph

Suffragettes who lived on till after the full vote was granted in 1928 were marked by many things, such as imprisonment, their memories and their experiences in the First World War. This beautifully written book of two women who meet up again is full of memories and more, set in a vibrant London of streets, gardens and parks. Ellen lives and works in a clothes shop with her brother Freddie, who designs the women’s clothes that they sell. 

The book begins with sadness, as she is preparing to go to the funeral of one of the most inspiring suffragettes, Hilda, but her meeting with Kate sets off more than one trail around London in search of the truth of events that happened several years before the book’s narrative. Ellen comes to realise that she has triggered a series of events that imperils her friend, but also that of her brother and others. The London setting comes alive as the author recalls the streets and people that would have been familiar to Ellen, as she walks and looks on the sunrises and sunsets in a crowded city. There is romance and grief, regrets and guilt in this gentle story of the new world after a War and some battles for women’s equality have been won, but there is still a long way to go. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this well written book.

Ellen is a fascinating character whose life had been devoted to the cause of the vote for women, together with her friend Kate. While marching, breaking windows and other campaigning tactics were acceptable to her, she drew the line at deliberate arson for the cause. Hilda and Kate, however, had deliberately set light to a church in London. When the newspapers reported that a body had been found in the ruins of the burnt out church, Kate had run away to France, and had not been heard of since. When Ellen met her at the funeral she begins to wonder if the news reports were true, and whether her friends were truly guilty of a man’s death. However, in order to get to the truth she must risk everything, especially when Freddie’s ex lover is the only person who can help. In order to discover the truth, will Ellen have to risk everything, including her relationship with Kate?

This well written book makes many revelations about the real lives of suffragettes, beyond the perception of them simply breaking windows. It shows how they formed strong bonds of friendship as they supported each other through such challenges as imprisonment. However, it also shows how women continued to suffer discrimination and lack of choice, especially within marriage, and how the streets of London were dangerous places for women. It also looks at the issue of same sex partnerships, and how they were still dangerous choices for men. This is a powerful work of historical fiction which has much to say about love, risk and the values of the truth. It takes a mature look at the development of relationships in challenging circumstances, and the difficulties of discrimination. I found this a moving book, with so many fascinating conversations and ideas, including the ongoing debate about practical clothing for women and the way they are treated differently in everyday life. I recommend this as a fascinating novel about the suffragettes and the relationships between the women united in a common cause.   

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