Hannah Duff

Written by Jim Burnside
Review by Mary Turner

By 1909 Hannah’s education has been curtailed. On her last day she plans to daub the bustle of Queen Victoria’s statue in Leith with an emblem of Women’s Suffrage. In solidarity with the memory of her mother she assumes her lapsed Christian name and leaves childhood behind to take a job in Liverpool. With evolved wisdom beyond her years, Hannah becomes Governess to Lady Christina Leslie’s daughters. Through the turmoil of Red Sunday to the tragedy of the Great War, she sustains balance through political activism while letting love into her life. But can she ever find peace?”

With the Great War looming we follow political events that affect Hannah’s life, but therein lies the rub. The back-cover blurb gives the impression that the main character is Hannah Duff, a young, adventurous woman, but she is only fleetingly mentioned in the first fifty pages as the narrative concentrates on her father.

The book is well produced with well-edited text, except there is inconsistency in the language used – very clear and straightforward passages are interspersed with academic terms that break up the flow. I struggled with, ’The necessary orthogenic reformations arising from her mother’s death,’ as example.

The academic style drives the story, which unfortunately does not make for an entertaining or comfortable read. Hannah’s story gets lost in the politics and economics of the time, which results in difficulty in becoming involved with the characters themselves, or caring about them. However, for readers interested in the political upheavals of the early twentieth century this would be an interesting read as Mr Burnside obviously knows his stuff. As straightforward entertainment, however, the novel is a bit of a struggle.