A Teller Of Tales (Grandmothers’ Footsteps Book1)

Written by Marilyn Pemberton
Review by Susie Helme

Lizzie looks after her mute, handicapped little brother Bobbit, defending him from within and without the family, in the 1820s mining town of Wednesbury, Staffordshire. She tells him imaginative stories, tales of powerful girls who right all wrongs done to their brothers. Does he understand them?

The addition to the family of a baby sister adds to the tensions, as Matthew, her favourite older brother, prepares to leave to study to be a vicar. Lizzie longs to be a missionary to some far-off land, or, failing that, a teacher. She is told that her place is in the home, and if she didn’t look after Bobbit, they’d place him in an institution. Instead, the good Mr. Whittaker, who has an admiration for Lizzie, is taken on as the new schoolmaster. She watches in envy as her other brother James “acts despicably one day and gets his heart’s desire the next.”

Matthew is going to be a missionary in Africa. Lizzie’s friend John, the carpenter’s son, who insists, despite her urging, on calling her “Miss Elizabeth,” makes for her a beautiful carved walnut box to give Matthew as a going-away gift. John understands; she wants to be the heroine in her own stories. Then one day, Bobbit takes one of her stories literally. By this time, Lizzie has grown into a young woman, and tragedy ushers in some lessons about life as well as some redemption, as well as a happily-ever-after.

The dialogue feels a bit rushed in places, although that does match the fairy-tale-like style. I would have liked more commas (but then, I always want more commas). This is a tale of female empowerment. The story is told in first-person present tense, a brave voice, which adds to the immediacy and the storytelling quality. The tone is light and inventive.