I have a very special guest in the spotlight today — some of you already know, the talented Laura Wilkinson whose first novel BloodMining won the first and only Bridge House Publishing Debut Novel prize and has since gone onto to have great sucesses.
Laura’s new novel is now out and after we met Kit last week with her novel based around the miner’s strike I want to introduce you to Laura’s novel — downloaded and waiting to be read, along with Kit’s. Both inspired by the same period in history but very different. So I hope you, like me, will read both and see how the writers handled it.
So without further ado I would like to hand my blog over to Laura …
Welcome Laura Wilkinson
Remembering our Foremothers by Laura Wilkinson
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike, an industrial dispute which divided the nation like no other and whose effects are still reverberating today. The role of women in the furore cannot be overestimated. The strike made feminists of many miners’ wives – women formerly used to fulfilling a very traditional role – and after the conflict, there was no turning back.
My novel, Public Battles, Private Wars, is set against the backdrop of the strike and tells the story of a young wife and mother who finds her voice, and love, during a time of great hardship and struggle. I have been asked why I’m interested in an industrial dispute decades old, who wants to read a feminist novel, and what relevance does it have for modern women?
I answer these questions by quoting Elie Wiesel: ‘Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilisation, no society, no future.’
While I was researching the novel, I spoke with a number of the women involved, miners’ partners and women from the political movements who rallied round – Labour Party activists, Marxists, Feminists and others – about the often profound impact of the strike.
Memory is key to our identity, image and awareness, and for many women, the conflict was a defining period in their lives.
I have my own memories. My step-father was a steelworker, an industry crushed by MacGregor and Thatcher before they turned to coal, and my mother was an important role model. Growing up in a working class family in the 70s, I was unaware of the feminist movement until I studied for a degree in Manchester. Whether or not she wore the badges, read the books and attended the marches (though we did visit Greenham on route to a CND demonstration when I was a child) my mother was undoubtedly a feminist, and her involvement in local politics had already helped shape her identity – she took public office as a town and county councillor, as well as becoming mayor of our town. My stepfather was also a feminist, though he too would never have described himself as such. Even before he lost his job, there was never any question of him not pulling his weight in the home, with cooking and cleaning and shopping and so on. Theirs is a relationship of equals with the mutual respect this implies. In this, we were different from many friends’ families in the rural Welsh town I grew up in.
When the miners came out on strike, I was in my first year of an English degree. Like so many of my fellow students, I marched and rattled buckets. My mother helped the women of the Point of Ayr Colliery and it was women like my mother who became role models for women who previously lacked confidence and belief in their abilities.
There is a stack of writing about the strike, but the bulk of it is non-fiction and none of the three novels I’m aware of focus on the women. Until now, with the release of Public Battles, Private Wars and Kit Habianic’s novel. While much of the non-fiction available makes for compelling reading, nothing sticks in the memory quite like stories. Narratives evoke emotion, take readers on journeys and allow them to walk in others’ shoes, to live the life vicarious, and learn from the experience.
There is still widespread oppression of women across the globe, but as the women’s role in the miners’ strike demonstrates, there is power in collective action and the cross fertilisation of ideas. History (herstory) is important because we learn lessons from our pasts, collective and individual, and it helps us to understand our present and shape our future.
Public Battles, Private Wars is published by Accent Press.
Miner’s wife Mandy is stuck in a rut. Her future looks set and she wants more. But Mandy can’t do anything other than bake and raise her four children. Husband Rob is a good looking drinker, content to spend his days in the small town where they live.
When a childhood friend – beautiful, clever Ruth – and her Falklands war hero husband, Dan, return to town, their homecoming is shrouded in mystery. Mandy looks to Ruth for inspiration, but Ruth isn’t all she appears.
Conflict with the Coal Board turns into war and the men come out on strike. The community and its way of life is threatened. Mandy abandons dreams of liberation from the kitchen sink and joins a support group. As the strike rumbles on relationships are pushed to the brink, and Mandy finds out who her true friends are.
Here’s a buy link:
E-book is on special offer at the moment too – just £1.
You can find out more about Laura and the novel, including Book Group Questions, here: http://laura-wilkinson.co.uk
Accent are running a giveaway over at Goodreads. There are 6 paperbacks up for grabs. Competition ends 25 April: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21488069-public-battles-private-wars
Thanks so much Laura and I have to say I am looking forward to this — so come on followers and get buying!
Have a great day everyone! Something amazing is about to happen, if you believe!