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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written historic fiction about a remarkable man
The man of clay that AN Wilson throws onto his storytelling wheel in "The Potter's Hand" is the great Josiah Wedgwood, but this is much more than a historic telling of his life. Indeed, Josiah already has a thriving business at the start of the book. What Wilson does particularly impressively is to put Wedgwood's achievement and works into the context of the politics and...
Published on 29 Aug 2012 by Ripple

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hoped for better
Living in north Staffordshire I was looking forward to this book, but I found it oddly disappointing. Several things jarred with me
The overuse of local dialect was an irritant, some folk out there will have difficulty in understanding it fully.
I know it was written in modern times, but the use of the "F" word and the rather poorly described sex scenes were...
Published 12 months ago by Gadfly


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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written historic fiction about a remarkable man, 29 Aug 2012
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Potter's Hand (Hardcover)
The man of clay that AN Wilson throws onto his storytelling wheel in "The Potter's Hand" is the great Josiah Wedgwood, but this is much more than a historic telling of his life. Indeed, Josiah already has a thriving business at the start of the book. What Wilson does particularly impressively is to put Wedgwood's achievement and works into the context of the politics and social philosophy of the times, sandwiched between the two great revolutions in American and France. In order to do this, Wilson has to play slightly loose with artistic licence by altering dates and time lines a bit, but it works well. He also balances the real historic figures with several key figures of his own invention and where the historic figures don't quite fit with his narrative, he alters their ages and invents "facts" to the benefit of the fictional narrative.

Wilson's approach is a broad one, following a number of sub-plots throughout the book. Indeed, poor old Josiah often seems to float around on the edge of his own story for much of the book as Wilson concentrates on his nephew, Tom Byerley, who would run the family business after the period of this novel, and the entirely fictional characters of Caleb and Heffie Bowers and Blue Squirrel, a Cherokee girl that Tom meets while seeking to negotiate the supply of American kaolin to meet the order for the Catherine the Great. Also central to the book is Wedgwood's oldest daughter, Sukey, whose later children included Charles Darwin.

The result is a novel of ideas ranging from colonialism, slavery, the welfare of workers, class, religious belief, industrialisation and, with Charles Darwin's grandfather, the lecherous old Dr Darwin as the family doctor, early thoughts on evolution.

This impressive and thoughtful breadth of approach does come a cost though. I never really felt that I got to know Josiah as a character throughout the book. Wilson doesn't really explore the depth of his genius or innovation to any great extent. Sure we are told but never really shown. Also the various sub plots can lay frustratingly latent for long periods of the book, particularly the fascinating story line of the fictional Blue Squirrel. Her story alone would have made for a compelling novel but here gets a little lost. There are also some troubling conflicts between some of the ideas. Blue Squirrel is, in her own way, touched by the skill and one might even say genius of Josiah which seems to underplay his role and for all the hugely interesting early thoughts on evolution, the undoubtedly great Josiah is the result of high levels of family inter-marriage which seems to run counter to the survival of the fittest ideas that are emerging.

At other times though the conflicts themselves are fascinating. There's irony that the Frog Service produced for Catherine the Great depicted rural idealistic scenes of Britain at a time when the producer is doing much to destroy this with the beginnings of the industrial revolution.

There's also a slight tendency towards famous name dropping. To a large extent this is inevitable as Josiah knew and interacted with a wide range of people who we know of today - Stubbs, Coleridge, Watt, to name but a few. However some of these seem to be slightly forced into the narrative in ways that don't add a great deal to the central story.

The quality of the writing is superb though and Josiah Wedgwood was a fascinating man at a pivotal historic period and Wilson brings these two together well. You get a strong sense of the personal struggles of family life. It's a wonder that anyone achieved anything given the doses of laudanum that they were all taking for various ailments. If you are looking for a broad stroke historic novel that addresses the great ideas of the time, then this will be very much your cup of tea, served in a doubtless exquisite Wedgwood tea service. I would have found it more compelling though if there had been a stronger central core to the book, be that Blue Squirrel, Sukey or even the old man himself.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The First Capitalist, 8 Nov 2012
By 
Mr. J. N. Plant (Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs.UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Potter's Hand (Kindle Edition)
I didn't realise immediately that the author of this book had such important connections with Josiah Wedgwood. A.N.Wilson's father was Managing Director of Josiah Wedgwood Ltd. Wilson knows the distinctive Potteries accent and this gives such credibility to the minor characters: Caleb and Effie. But also to Old Wooden leg himself who at intimate moments speaks the dialect. A.N.Wilson has a reputation for thorough research which means I trust him in this story. Josh's relationship, as a very superior tradesman, with the aristocrats in London and in Staffordshire is one of the most valued aspects of this wonderful story. The book is quite densely printed so thanks Amazon Kindle for enlarged printing enabling me to get through it quickly and easily
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hoped for better, 22 Sep 2013
This review is from: The Potter's Hand (Paperback)
Living in north Staffordshire I was looking forward to this book, but I found it oddly disappointing. Several things jarred with me
The overuse of local dialect was an irritant, some folk out there will have difficulty in understanding it fully.
I know it was written in modern times, but the use of the "F" word and the rather poorly described sex scenes were wholly unnecessary.
The interludes where the action jumped forwards 20 years made it all the more confusing.
On the positive side it gave a good account of the man Josiah Wedgwood and the spirit of the age.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Industrial Revalution on a human scale, 27 Dec 2012
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This review is from: The Potter's Hand (Hardcover)
A.N.Wilson's historical novel about the family of Josiah Wedgwood, intrigues with its rich analysis of material success and emotional failure. You can trust A.N.Wilson with facts which otherwise might fade into fiction. It is an adventure and a revelation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Potter's Hand, 17 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Potter's Hand (Hardcover)
As a practising potter I really enjoyed this book and felt that the author had a good grasp of what life was like in the potteries. Possibly someone with little knowledge of the potteries and what Wedgwood achieved at the time might not find it so fulfilling. Some liberties were taken by the author but these did not distract from the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely Novel, 17 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Potter's Hand (Kindle Edition)
This is a fantastic read, it is fun but has enough depth to make it really interesting. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wedgewood wonder., 7 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Potter's Hand (Kindle Edition)
A glimpse of the real work during the industrial revolution along with a story line that sets blends well with the history of this incredible man and his family.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The potter's hand - the historian's pen, a winning combination, 3 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Potter's Hand (Kindle Edition)
This novel is based on the later years of Josiah Wedgwood’s life. His leg was amputated so he was known by most of his workers as ‘Old Wooden Leg’, but his disability had little impact on his energy, drive or imagination. A brilliant potter himself, he established a company that became a by-word for quality and innovation. This novel is a mixture of family saga, history and adventure yarn and Wilson knows his source, his father being the managing director of the Wedgewood Pottery.

This is a splendid story, huge in its scope, which improves the understanding of the age while giving insight into the principal characters. This was the Age of Reason, and also the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. Both are well-presented and explained in this fine book. Some readers may find the absence of speech marks, or the strong Staffordshire accent, distracting, but these are minor quibbles in a major work. More important is the fine writing. For example, at the death of one of Josiah’s many children, Sukey takes up her Oboe:
‘The reedy oboe’s voice, a sad deep-throated bird, filled the silent house ..... Words could not have lifted them. The oboe skipped, sang, led onwards all who heard it with sounds which did not give hope, but which defied despair.’ Great stuff.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 31 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Potter's Hand (Kindle Edition)
Although this is "fiction" A N Wilson has knack of giving you the real person and real historical moment behind his invention. Josiah Wedgewood was one of a type; making his world the better and stronger place without over-sentiment, human rights or health and safety. Such types eventually were to become out-dated and marginalised as those who followed and prospered sought to place their own stamp upon the world. Wilson throws a pot with all of these elements in it so that it stands out as masterpiece of design, execution and pleasure. JJ
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 9 July 2014
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This review is from: The Potter's Hand (Kindle Edition)
Excellent - a great read
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The Potter's Hand
The Potter's Hand by A. N. Wilson (Hardcover - 1 Sep 2012)
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