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Jon Walter is inspired by the power of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. A former photojournalist, he took pictures of the people we rarely get to see, and as a writer he listens out for the quieter voices of those that don't get heard. Here, inspired by the suffragette movement, he explores how it was the everyday decisions of women over their own lives that made its success inevitable. Jon's previous books, Close to the Wind and My Name's Not Friday, were also published by DFB, and have been shortlisted for numerous awards.
Photo credit - Katie Vandyck
Both Clara and Nancy are very much the victims of a pre-World War 1 society dominated by men. Clara the eldest has fought her way out of the family home and out of the clutches of an abusive father but cannot escape her guilt at leaving Nancy to take her place and face an unwanted pregnancy, a painful birth and the wrench of giving her child away. Clara is proud to have found a job which also provides accommodation and now sees this as the solution for her sister too. Life as a prison guard in Holloway is certainly challenging not least because of the new category of political prisoners- the Suffragettes- many of whom are on hunger strike. The author paints a very vivid picture of the restricted life of women in 1913 and the brutality of prison life for guard and prisoner alike. Whilst Clara is the one who thinks most about the issues of women’s rights and independence it is to be the gentle, shy Nancy who gets swept up into the movement when she becomes obsessed with one particular prisoner: “The Duchess” and while Clara pursues her career rather than her feelings for her boyfriend, Nancy impulsively follows her heart and the Duchess into violent protest. It is all about making difficult choices. Having the courage to make a stand for justice. Realising that following your heart can mean the loss of your freedom. This gripping novel really makes the reader think about the wider roles of women and the personal as well as the political aspects of emancipation. One cannot help but see the ironic juxtaposition of the notorious “Cat & Mouse” treatment of the prisoners on hunger strike and Clara’s treatment of her suitor and again with Nancy’s capitulation to capture and imprisonment for arson and Clara’s eventual acceptance of marriage even at the cost of being “given away” by her abusive father. Thought provoking, shocking and insightful this is a very rewarding read indeed and one which will be very valuable to students of history and women’s studies.
Samuel's an educated boy. Been taught by a priest. He was never supposed to be a slave. He's a good boy too, thoughtful and kind. The type of boy who'd take the blame for something he didn't do, if it meant he could save his brother. So now they don't call him Samuel anymore. And the sound of guns is getting ever closer ... Jon Walter's second novel is a beautiful and moving story about the power of belief and the strength of the human spirit, set against the terrifying backdrop of the American Civil War.
This boy has bought me. This white boy who don't even look as old as I am. He owns me body and soul, and my worth has been set at six hundred dollars. Samuel's an educated boy. Been taught by a priest. He was never supposed to be a slave. He's a good boy too, thoughtful and kind. The type of boy who'd take the blame for something he didn't do, if it meant he could save his brother. So now they don't call him Samuel anymore. And the sound of guns is getting ever closer...
A war torn country - a town that is burning. A single ship waits at the port for those who can escape. How can a boy and his grandfather hope to get on board? And will they find his mother before it leaves? When Papa meets two old friends, he makes a deal that could save them all. But this is only the beginning of the journey for Malik. If he is to escape he will need all of his courage, his sense of right and wrong and a magic trick that he must practice till it's perfect.