If you enjoy a really good read of a young woman competing against the odds with a wealth of research behind it, this is definitely the book for you. Eliza is a strong minded woman with a great deal of determination combined with a certain innocence, and is the central character in this well paced book. Although there are some challenges for Eliza in this well written book, there is swift resolution and no repetitive angst. Set in the 1850s, this is a book full of colour and beautiful descriptions of Somerset and willow beds which are growing the means of making the baskets and traps that Eliza is known for locally. Featuring characters that are well brought to life, this is a book of a woman’s adventures in the mid nineteenth century which moves along well, as Eliza is faced with the challenges and choices of the age. A book of place, people and much more, this is a really good read on many levels, and I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
Eliza is looking after her grandfather in a small cottage as he tends his willow beds in Somerset. The research which is reflected in the life and work of this young woman must have been tremendous, but at no point gets in the way of the story. In the absence of her much loved grandmother, Eliza must make baskets as well as cook and clean. She also raises funds by growing and selling vegetables with her good friend Clem who runs a sort of delivery service on the waters which can prove the only way of transporting goods locally. Clem is obviously attracted to his life long friend Eliza, but at the age of seventeen she wants to see more of the world and meet more people. A mysterious and special stranger changes her life, and she gains some interesting experiences. When she does depart the area of her birth, she soon finds that life is far more dangerous and difficult than she could have imagined, and it is only because of her quick wits, survival instinct and more that she moves on. Other ways of life present themselves to a young woman who applies her skills thoughtfully, and who makes a sacrifice for a friend.
This is a book which conveys well the feelings of a young woman who grows up in what appears to be a limited local area, and who has certain experiences. It is rich with carefully drawn characters who really come to life in the hands of this skilled writer. Although I had little knowledge of the enormous effort that goes into growing, tending and making willow baskets and the many uses to which they were put, this is a novel which manages to convey a great deal of knowledge to the reader in a lively way. Eliza is an enormously attractive character who really comes to life through this novel, and I would be keen to seek out more books by this talented and memorable author.
I hope that everyone is finding things to do now that many activities are suspended. I am trying to read and review many books, as I think that someone may well find a distraction in reading my blog, as well as promoting some books that are missing out on launch parties. I hope you are not too overwhelmed with my efforts. Meanwhile, the husband is playing in the garden, repairing the damage to the edge of the lawn committed over the winter by interestingly aimed cars. By the time he is allowed out into the world again we will have quite a special garden!