The Poor Relation

Written by Susanna Bavin
Review by Valerie Loh

Mary Maitland is trying to gain promotion in Edwardian Manchester. The year is 1908 and she is a woman; times are hard, but attitudes are about to start changing. What makes every action Mary takes more dramatic is the fact that she is the poor relation of the powerful and rich Kimber family. Their shadow falls over her life, and yet her actions could bring a taint to their name. This provides inner conflict, coupled with her desire to strike out and become a female journalist. Her situation is made more intolerable as unintentionally her actions become entwined with women’s suffrage.

The historic detail of the parallel between the have and have-nots are shown as this story of struggle, mystery and romance fascinates the reader. The fast-paced action is captivating. It starts and builds drama in a way that sweeps the reader’s empathy and interest along with it. Horrid Greg Rawley and his Aunt Helen’s situation reflect the way women’s lives were controlled and dependent upon the generosity, or cruelty, of their male relatives. Yet the kind-hearted Dr Nathaniel Brewer shows that there were many who were not of a callous or controlling persuasion.

This is a gripping, heart-warming story that builds conflicts of deepening complexity, reflecting the history of a very troubled pre-war era, involving a variety of engaging characters. It is definitely a recommended read for lovers of intriguing sagas.