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4.7 out of 5 stars329
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 9 March 2008
This epic, moving and awe-inspiring work of fiction is perhaps the greatest evidence of Lesley Pearse' commitment to extensive research and attention to detail.

It tells in incredible detail the ENTIRE life story of a London-born woman named Matilda Jennings. Her life begins in dire poverty and gradually progresses through an incredible amount of experiences, from moving to America, to working with the poor, business ventures, extensive travelling, romance, childbirth, and many, many others.

This book is particularly valuable because of it's descriptions of poverty in nineteenth century London, New York and San Francisco. It describes vividly the many afflictions of the poor: illness, starvation, exploitation and horrendous living conditions. Some of the descriptions here of the personal hygiene and lack of sanitation in the nineteenth century are truly mind-boggling, but this book is an excellent exploration of just how bad life was less than 200 years ago.

The extremely high mortality rate of that era is also touched upon frequently, as Matilda has person after person torn cruelly from her life. These chapters reduced me to tears, but the descriptions of Matilda putting on a brave face and continuing on with her life, in the spirit of strength and courage, was truly inspiring. This is an undoubtedly powerful and well-crafted story.

The theme of female emancipation is also explored, and if there's a more inspiring figure of female independence and strength in contemporary fiction than Matilda Jennings, I have yet to encounter her. With unbelievable guts, the lead character of this novel shows an incredible amount of strength, instinct, dignity, resourcefulness and determination to succeed at so much more than being a wife and Mother. Perhaps the character is fictional, but in theory, any woman should be able to succeed as Matilda does in this story, if only they learn how to utilise the strength and determination which every woman undoubtedly has.

This book is superbly-written, engaging enough to keep my attention for hours and hours on end, without stopping reading. Despite it's huge length, I found myself finishing it in less than three or four days. It's characters are well-crafted, strong and interesting. Anticipation for the next event in Matilda's remarkable life kept me reading with keenness. The historical research is considerable and the attention to detail is impressive.

I cannot reccommend this book strongly enough. Even if you don't enjoy contemporary fiction which is has a generally romantic theme, this book can be enjoyed for it's important historical context and it's incredibly vivid depiction of the grimness of life in the nineteenth century. As a study of poverty and courage, 'Never Look Back' is valuable and poignant, firmly establishing Lesley Pearse as a writer of great talent and integrity.
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on 6 October 2002
What a book!
This was not the first book by Lesley that I had read so I knew that it would be a good read. This author has the ability to draw you into every aspect of the characters' life, good and bad. I felt as though I was there beside Matty every step of the way from start to finish. If you have never read a book by Lesley Pearse then you are in for a real treat. Matty is the main character and you follow her from her humble beginnings in London over to the brave new pioneering world of America. As Matty travels she has many experiences but she never forgets where she came from or her family back in London. You have to read this book.
I would however like to pass on a word of warning - don't read this if you like to put books down or if you are short of time. I took this on holiday and didn't come up for air for 2 days! You have been warned!!!!
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on 23 June 2006
I think this must be my all time favourite book, and the first I have read from this author.

A friend recommended it and after reading the back cover which promised something like 'an epic saga of love and poverty and war', I wasn't instantly excited... but after the first few pages I completely fell in love with the characters and the writing.

I recommend this book to anyone and would ask them not to be put off by the lenght of the book (a real treat once you get involved with the story because you won't want it to end) or the apparently heavy-going subject matter.

Like other reviewers, I also missed Matty when I finished the story but won't forget this book for a very, very, very long time.
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on 26 July 2005
If you want a book to really lose yourself in, this is the one. Its a tale of a lifetime, change, drama and adventure a plenty and can really get your emotions going, (Its the first book I have ever read that has almost moved me to tears).
You cant help but love the main character Matty who you follow from childhood throughout her life as she moves from England to America and developes into a travelled and experienced woman and you feel you are with her every step of the way.
A friend of mine recommended the book to me and warned me that she had withdrawal symptons when she finished, you really do get attached. It is the first Lesley Pearse book I have read and I have already been out to buy another of hers to move on to next.
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on 16 March 2004
I read this book perhaps 2 years ago now and just loved it! It tells the facinating story of Matty and her travels from London and then across America. All the characters in the book are imaginatively written and well developed. I have such happy memories of curled up in my school library with the book and a big bag of crisps! I would recommend this book to anyone with a love of sagas or American history.
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I have read all of Lesley Pearse's books and have found this one to be the best read. She takes you on an emotional rollercoaster ride from England across to the shores of America. On more than one occasion it bought tears to my eyes and kept the pages turning. I have never been this moved by a book and can only hope that her next book will be just as good.
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on 13 October 2004
Not since my teenage years have I sobbed so much while reading a book. I got so involved with the central character, Matty, and couldn't believe how much she had to suffer. Every time some new tragedy struck her I would howl. Rarely have I become so involved in a story. I have been inspired to find out more about those pioneer days and the early days of New York. I always enjoy this author's books, but so far this has been her very, very best ...... but I still have more to read!
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on 17 June 2006
This was the 1st lesley pearse book i have read and it will not be the last. This book was absolutely fantastic in every way. I cannot rate it highly enough and I didn't want it to end. The character matty stays with you and you feel like you know her. It takes you from london in the 1800's to new york and the gold rush in san francisco. It is a real epic and I couldn't wait to turn the pages to see what happened next. Brilliant. I am now going on to read trust me.
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on 26 August 2007
Now what can I say I have read a lot of books lol but this is the best book ever well it was till I read Remember Me also by Lesley Pearce and now they are both my favourite books of all time - although Savages by Shirley Conran still has a place in my heart lol

These books were so good that they made me want to look up further information on the internet which I managed in my ever so busy life - all I can say is YOU MUST READ THIS - ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS.
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on 24 August 2000
I wish I knew who decided to give this book it's dreadful cover because they certainly had not read it first! Matty is a flower seller from the slums of early Victorian London, one day she saves a young child about to fall under the wheels of a carriage and her life changes dramatically. The child's parents Giles and Lily decide to give Matty a chance and employ her as a maid, when Giles in his post as a church of England minister is posted to America Matty travels with them. There Matty dedicates herself to their family and has almost no thought of a life of her own. She and Giles set up and run a rescue foundation for orphaned children from the dreadful slums of New York. Such a lot happens in this tale that I don't want to give too much away but from here on Matty's life seems to be one tragedy after another. But Matty is a strong woman and always looks forward, travelling to the gold rush capital of San Francisco she becomes a successful business woman and uses her power to help the weak and vulnerable. It is here that she finally meets the love of her life Captain James Russell. This could be classed as an "Epic Saga" but really it is a story that many woman of her time would have recognised. Matty knows that she has to carry on no matter what, and it is this that gives her, her wonderfully strong character. Please don't be put off by the jacket, read this book and I promise you won't regret it!
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