A Weaver’s Web by Chris Pearce

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A Weaver’s Web by Chris Pearce
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (238 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Handloom weaver Henry Wakefield, his wife Sarah and their five children live in abject poverty in the Manchester area of the UK in the early 19th century at the time of the Industrial Revolution. Henry hates the new factories and won’t let his family work in them. He clashes with Sarah, a factory agent, a local priest and reformers, and son Albert runs away. The family are evicted and move to Manchester but are even worse off, living in a cellar in a terrace and have another little mouth to feed.

Henry’s love of money overrides his hatred of factories and he starts one of his own, but it is beset with problems. The Wakefields eventually become quite wealthy, but Henry holds the purse strings and this has a devastating effect on the family. Albert is caught stealing and is transported to New South Wales. Her baby’s death, Albert’s unknown fate and society parties become too much for Sarah, who hears voices and is taken to the lunatic asylum. Son Benjamin faces eviction from the family home for having a baby with an orphan girl too soon after their marriage.

Family members, including Sarah who has got out of the asylum and Albert who has returned to England unbeknown to Henry, have had enough and seek revenge.

Every parent dreams of giving his or her children a better life. Henry Wakefield is convinced he has what it takes to pull his family out of poverty…at any cost.

I was impressed by how much detail Mr. Pearce packed into this story. His descriptions of English life in the early 1800s were so extensive that I felt like I was walking alongside the characters as they struggled to survive. My favourite passages discussed how grimly the weakest members of their society were treated by anyone who thought they could get away with it. They weren’t always easy scenes to digest, but they were so well written that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page.

There wasn’t a great deal of character development in this book. The personalities of both the main and supporting characters relied heavily on the use of certain stereotypes about gender, social class, and religion. There were several scenes that would have been much more effective if I could have better understood why these characters behaved the way they did or what prevented them from learning from their previous experiences.

With that being said, this is a fascinating glimpse into the dark side of human nature. It’s easy to point out the faults of others, but it’s far more difficult to be on the other side of that judgement. This tale worked best when it showed just how easy it is to believe that you’re smarter and more resilient than every other person who has been hobbled by the same temptation before.

Reading A Weaver’s Web made me feel as though I’d travelled back in time 200 years. This is a good choice for anyone in the mood for a richly detailed historical novel.

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