‘Netherwood’ by Jane Sanderson is a book for anyone who’s enjoying Downtown Abbey or just enjoys glimpsing what life was like back in the Edwardian period. This is the perfect book to curl up with and read, whilst drinking something warm and nibbling at something from a bakery.
Set in Yorkshire, Lord Netherwood has a considerable fortune from his three coalmines. He has a wife, daughters, and a son who he must keep an eye on to keep out of trouble – he’s the heir to the fortune after all.
In his employment is Eve Williams, who must suddenly look to her own talents and quick wit in order to provide for her three children.
This is when ‘upstairs’ – the Netherwoods – and ‘downstairs’ – the employment, then collide in entertaining and page-turning events.
It’s always good to see females – especially in those times – having to venture from their comfort zones and supporting themselves, much like the book The Apothecary’s Daughter, which I reviewed back in September.
I must admit I struggled to read this in the beginning because of the dialogue.
‘You scared me ‘alf to death,’
‘I ‘ad a bad dream. Is it morning?’
‘Not for you. Back to bed. T’dream’s gone now.’
‘’as it? ‘ow do you know?’
When each line is modified to show accent, it gets a little tiring and almost annoying to read. I find that if all speak with the accent – why show it as if it’s unusual?
It is also slightly annoying for the main character to be utterly gorgeous and see each and every male character quivering with desire. It lessens the fact Eve has been able to work hard… but ahh well. Perhaps it is so we can look and dream a little harder at what life could have been like if we were in her place.
Other than that, it’s hard to believe this is Sanderson’s debut novel – there is a good flow of plot and dialogue, ensuring you turn the pages until you’re done – in as few sittings as possible. Try to make sure you have a free afternoon before picking this book up. The characters we well developed, especially that of Anna – a character who could almost have a novel of her own – as we see Eve going from strength to strength, someone that all feminists of this age would admire in those times.
The author, Jane Sanderson, is a former radio producer for the BBC and was born in Yorkshire herself. She used her own family history as a background for Netherwood, which adds authenticity to the words and makes it all seem so much more possible.
There is a sequel coming out in 2012, which will be titled Ravenscliffe.
This review was originally posted at SentientOnline on the 12th December 2011.