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The Sewing Machine Paperback – 17 Apr 2017
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A tapestry of strong characters and accomplished writing' Herald Scotland
A hopeful and poignant debut that lingers long after the final page' Helen Sedgwick, author of The Comet Seekers
An extraordinarily accomplished and beautiful debut novel woven with historical detail' Rachel Lucas, author of Wildflower Bay
About the Author
Natalie Fergie is a textile enthusiast, and has spent the last ten years running a one-woman dyeing business, sending parcels of unique yarn and thread all over the world. Before this she had a career in nursing. She lives near Edinburgh. The Singer 99K, which was the inspiration for this novel, has had at least four previous owners. It was bought for GBP20 from someone who lived in Clydebank, just a stone's throw from the site of the factory where it was made a hundred years earlier. It's quite possible that there are another eight sewing machines in her house. She blogs at www.nataliefergie.com and can be found on Twitter as @theyarnyard.
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We are introduced to some very memorable characters. Jean who used to work at the Singer Factory in Clydebank, Scotland in 1911 during the strike there, Connie a woman who really knows how to sew and can alter just about anything, Fred an inheritor of a machine, Ruth a mother and a nurse and all the people who are involved in their lives.
This story flutters between these main characters, drawing you into a deeply sentimental journey through their lives. It is a story of hardship and disappointment, but more of determination, pride, resilience and love. There are family secrets that are revealed and as these secrets come into the open, the reader mirrors the reactions of the characters. It is very cleverly drawn to its conclusion, bringing the story full circle .
It is hard to say where this book got me hooked, but suddenly I could not put it down. It is a beautifully written account of the lives of these people through the different decades from 1911 to 2016. I would recommend this book, it is an ideal book for cuddling up and forgetting the world with. It has a great feel good factor.
This book is in complete contrast to my normal reads of crime, thriller and horror. I simply could not resist the positive reviews on all the book social media I am a member of. Which brought me to my second problem with the read, hyped books rarely live up to their reputation. I am pleased to announce this is not the case with this book. It is simple wonderful. This is a character driven novel. You can relate to all the characters, the quality of the writing was so good. In a clever twist one of the characters writes his own blog giving us another layer of writing as you hear the direct voice of one of the characters. The book is simply wonderful and the ending is perfect. This is an amazing debut novel and I can’t wait to read more from this author.
As if the two families were represented by machines' bobbin and spool we see the needle bobbing along sewing together both families experiences though the turbulent times before and during the Great War when factory workers were trying to establish their rights within the workplace in the 1910's and women took over industrial labour while their husbands fought for peace; the strict morality of the 1950's and 60's, a transformed world and era with its own complex generational differences and thence to modern times where technology is the key but also where home made, upcycling and vintage are becoming the way forward.
The characters are compelling, so lifelike they step out of the pages, their problems and challenges true to period and generationally unique yet recounted in such a way that those with little historical knowledge of the 20th century can follow the storyline and understand the frustrations and difficulties of the times.
I do hope that Natalie Fergie will present us with many more books in the future, her first novel was such a pleasurable read I want to read it again. Rare to find a first novel written so well and with such skill to know exactly the right order to visit each generation and relay each part of the tale: it's no mean feat to capture each moment without losing track of what we know and who told us!
I wish I had the special edition copy.
I love historical fiction especially that which vividly shows the changes in our lives, particularly women’s lives, over the last century or so and The Sewing Machine squarely hits this brief. In 1911 Ten thousand workers went on strike, eighteen year old Jean being one of them. Jean’s story is one of split loyalties, between her family and her sweetheart and the consequences of the decisions made at this time in her narrative which spans decades.
In 1954 Connie has a Singer Sewing machine, bought in the early days of her marriage and unpredictability of life are beautifully captured in her own narrative and the details of those items she makes on her Singer, each item having a scrap of fabric and a few details entered into a notebook, these excerpts really hitting the mantra that less is sometimes so much more!
The most recent narrative is written by Fred In 2016 who is tasked with clearing his Grandfather’s flat which includes not one but two sewing machines. Fred is a man of this age, he blogs about his life, the big decisions he is forced to make and his memories of his grandparents. I’m not going to lie, I was surprised that we had a male perspective a book which shrieks ‘women’s interest’, one of the many successful and enjoyable departures from the formula often employed by writers in this genre.
In any historical novel the characters are key and each of those who feature are distinct and realistic. Some of the stories told are those that we may well be familiar but given life through the eyes of Natalie Fergie’s creations. The passing down of needlework skills from generation to generation is one which was an automatic rite of passage and this feeling of links in a changing world was one of the many delightful aspects of The Sewing Machine with even some of the technicalities of the machine itself being so wonderfully woven through the story one that proved to both entertaining and informative at the same time.
As with any story in this genre there are coincidences but the wealth of historical detail that spans the years this book is brilliant, especially as the choices clearly made to relate in one way or another back to the good old sewing machine, that these are soon accepted as an absolutely possible truth. The Sewing Machine is cleverly constructed with many different threads which are entwined to produce an outstanding read which took this reader through the full range of emotions with each of the perfectly drawn key narrators.
This is one of those books that even though I turned the last page a while back, is still resonating now and I expect it will for some time to come yet. A stunning debut novel that vividly captures both time and place wherever and whenever that happens to be.
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