It’s a real pleasure today to share my review of The Daughters of Ironbridge by Mollie Walton, published by Zaffre yesterday (18th April), and available for kindle and in paperback. My thanks to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy, provided via netgalley.
Mollie Walton is the alter ego of historical novelist Rebecca Mascull, whose books I have unfailingly loved: I think The Wild Air might have been my favourite (read my review here), but I also loved Song of the Sea Maid (review here), and the wonderful job the author made of completing Vanessa Lafaye’s Miss Marley (review here).
But I’ll admit to having been slightly nervous about reading a “saga”. It’s a genre I’ve never really been attracted to: I’d even say that I’d rather decided – with no evidence whatsoever – that it probably wouldn’t be my kind of reading. But I’m also never too old to learn…
Perfect for fans of Maggie Hope and Katie Flynn – the first in a heartwarming new series set against an ironworks in 1830s Shropshire, by debut saga author Mollie Walton.
Anny Woodvine’s family has worked at the ironworks for as long as she can remember. The brightest child in her road and the first in her family to learn to read, Anny has big dreams. So, when she is asked to run messages for the King family, she grabs the opportunity with both hands.
Margaret King is surrounded by privilege and wealth. But behind closed doors, nothing is what it seems. When Anny arrives, Margaret finds her first ally and friend. Together they plan to change their lives.
But as disaster looms over the ironworks, Margaret and Anny find themselves surrounded by secrets and betrayal. Can they hold true to each other and overcome their fate? Or are they destined to repeat the mistakes of the past?
‘The Daughters of Ironbridge has that compulsive, page-turning quality, irresistible characters the reader gets hugely invested in, and Walton has created a brilliantly alive, vivid and breathing world in Ironbridge’ – Louisa Treger
This book was just wonderful – whisking me back to 1830s Shropshire, entirely immersed in the lives between its pages, living every twist and turn of its enthralling story, feeling all the injustices, rooting for the wonderful women at its centre.
The author features strong women, drawn in depth, in her historical novels (written as Rebecca Mascull) – and her equally powerful portrayal of Anny and Margaret was one of the many things I loved about this book. It takes two girls at the opposite ends of the social spectrum: Anny desperate to better herself, to be able to secure her future with a job in a Shrewsbury office rather than the hard manual work that might otherwise be her fate; Margaret surrounded by privilege but deprived of love, passing her uncomfortable days until her father can get her married.
The unlikely friendship that develops between them is so convincingly done, with moments of pure joy for them both – but it’s a friendship that proves difficult to sustain when the realities of their lives intervene, and the story takes some very dark turns indeed before its thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
The research the author must have undertaken to build their world in such rich detail and with total believability must have been immense. The social history and the contemporary detail – the relationships between the foundry owners and the workers, the conditions they endured, the casual disregard for safety and the lives of others, the social position of women – combined to make this world one I became entirely part of.
And the story telling is quite superb – I was totally lost in this story from beginning to end, cheering every triumph, shocked at every setback, angry about every threat to their happiness, tearful at the moments of injustice and loss. This book is the first in a planned trilogy, and I’m totally committed for the duration – very much my kind of read, and I absolutely loved it.
About the author
Mollie Walton is the saga pen-name for historical novelist Rebecca Mascull.
She has always been fascinated by history and on a trip to Shropshire, while gazing down from the iron bridge, found the inspiration for what has become her debut saga novel, part of a trilogy titled The Ironbridge Saga, published by Bonnier Zaffre.
Under the pen-name Rebecca Mascull, she is the author of three historical novels.
Her first novel The Visitors (2014) tells the story of Adeliza Golding, a deaf-blind child living on her father’s hop farm in Victorian Kent. Her second novel Song of the Sea Maid (2015) is set in the C18th and concerns an orphan girl who becomes a scientist and makes a remarkable discovery. Her third novel, The Wild Air (2017) is about a shy Edwardian girl who learns to fly and becomes a celebrated aviatrix but the shadow of war is looming. All are published by Hodder & Stoughton.
She has also recently completed the final chapters of her friend and fellow novelist Vanessa Lafaye’s final work, a novella called Miss Marley, a prequel to Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, published in November 2018 by HarperCollins.
Rebecca has previously worked in education, has a Masters in Writing and lives by the sea in the east of England.