Hannah’s Left Hook

Written by Brian McKeown
Review by Jeanne Greene

England, 1916. In the predominately-Irish area of Liverpool, a woman’s place is in the home, not in the shipyard and certainly not in a man’s job. When a young woman applies for a job as a laborer, the supervisor is shocked, but there is a wartime labor shortage, and so he hires Hannah Corcoran, age 26, thus opening a door for hundreds of other women.

Hannah only works to feed her family, but injustice makes her livid. She has been known to use a wicked left hook in defense of working-class people ignored by the law. Her convictions draw Hannah into labor politics between the wars. As she ages, her aim gets wilder and, after she decks a priest, Hannah retires her left hook.

Although it’s hard to separate McKeown’s family anecdotes and fiction from history like the General Strike – one wonders about Hannah’s conversation with George V – the rivalries and tragedies of three generations living mostly under one roof rival the drama of real events. Hannah’s Left Hook is a touching family saga to be read for enjoyment.