As the jacket says, this is a novel of men machines and money. Penny is the name of a factory worker, Nicholas Penny, and the product the factory makes is lace.
The novel is set in late Victorian Nottingham and also in Derbyshire. Nicholas has an excellent story to tell, and Hilda Lewis does it extremely well. Nicholas does not like his bosses, the masters of the mills, and does not have a good relationship with his co-workers. He starts on the factory floor and learns the trade but is determined to set up on his own and become a master, which he eventually does away from Nottingham and also away from the trade unions. He starts to steal the work from his former bosses, who he feels are old-fashioned, by undercutting them. He installs new machines and uses new methods and new patterns for his lace. As the story unfolds, his financial position changes, and he also marries along the way.
Penny Lace is a good read, bringing the lace making industry alive with its dense and detailed descriptions. The reader gets to know the well-rounded characters really well through the excellent writing. The language is authentic and the writing easy to read. The chapters are quite short, making the book good for picking up and putting down; however, once picked up this book it is actually quite difficult to put down. Penny Lace can be recommended for its storyline, its geographical accounts of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and most certainly for its insight into the lace making industry.