The Glovemaker’s Daughter

Written by Leah Fleming
Review by Tracey Warr

The novel opens with an account of the persecution of Quakers in 17th-century England, set out in the journal of Rejoice (or Joy) Moorside. Joy’s parents died on the day of her birth after a period of harsh imprisonment, and she is raised by her Quaker uncle and aunt on a farm in the Yorkshire Dales. She frequently struggles with dilemmas arising from her passionate nature and the sober constraints of her faith. She sails for Philadelphia with a group of Friends who are intent on founding a new community, where they will be able to live according to their beliefs. On the voyage, Joy encounters another temptation she must resist: the attractive British officer, Captain Thane.

Fleming tells the moving story of hardships suffered by the pioneers as they build their community in Pennsylvania and survive through harsh winters. She draws an evocative picture of the Lenape, the gentle neighbouring Native Americans who would eventually be wiped out by the incomers in a series of epidemics and massacres. A shadow is cast over Joy’s new life when a conman she met in Yorkshire arrives in the community and aggressive Native Americans begin to threaten the pioneer communities.

The plot has a multitude of twists and turns, but the pace is sometimes listless. This is a novel nominally set in two time periods, the present and the 17th century. However, the present story is slight and merely provides a framing device for the discovery of the 17th-century journal in the wall of the Quaker Meeting House in the town of Good Hope. The novel would have been none the worse without this present-day story. Fleming gives us a well-researched glimpse into this slice of history.