Friday, 3 July 2015

'The Hourglass Factory' by Lucy Ribchester

What's this? A new novel about the suffragettes? One that doesn't centre around the friendship between an upper-class lady suffragette and an underprivileged working-class suffragette? Count me in!

As long-suffering blog readers will know there is nothing I like more than something suffragetty. So I welcome Lucy Ribchester's debut novel The Hourglass Factory with open arms and a green, purple and white badge of honour. (It doesn't hurt that I love the cover, too. I mean, look at it!)

Frankie George is a hot-headed and determined young journalist who is determined to make her editor on the grimy tabloid newspaper where she works take notice of her. Sick of being given stereotyped and boring ladies' stories about fashion and gardening, Frankie takes a leaf out of real-life journalist Nellie Bly's book (a shero of mine since I wrote my MA thesis about the women student journalists of the 1910s. If you don't know who Nellie is, click here) and throws herself into an intriguing web of mystery and drama.

Essentially a crime novel, The Hourglass Factory follows Frankie as she tracks the mysterious trapeze artist, tiger tamer and burlesque performer Ebony Diamond around town... a feat made more difficult after Ebony goes missing one night when a big theatre stunt goes wrong. 

With lots of gorgeous references to corset fetishists, eccentric old society gals and bizarre poisons, The Hourglass Factory follows Ebony and her gang of misfits as they seek to reveal what really happened to Ebony while scoring Frankie the newspaper scoop she's hankering after. Will they pull it off? 

While there are definite hints that this is Lucy's first novel (if you know the suffrage era well you'll wince at how shoehorned in some of the historical references are; and the crime plot only works because so many fortuitous events happen at the right time), when the premise is this delicious it's hard to mind too much. I look forward to seeing what Lucy does next. In the meantime, I want The Hourglass Factory to be made into a film. Get to it, Phyllida Lloyd.

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