The Woman in the Picture

Written by Katherine McMahon

It is 1926, and the aftermath of the Great War still darkens the country. Evelyn Gifford finds looking to a successful future, as one of the very first female lawyers, difficult. She had been employed by the far-sighted head of the chambers that employ her, Daniel Breen, and the novel hinges on two major trials from opposite ends of the social spectrum. One involves the murder of a brutal husband by his downtrodden wife, and the second deals with the complicated marital mess between a politician and his wife concerning the identity of the father of their young daughter. He is heading up the government’s opposition to the impending strike, and she is artistic and volatile. In both cases, the strike looms large on the action.

The Woman in the Picture is the sequel to The Crimson Rooms and. although it can be read alone as a single novel, for me it’s better to read it as a continuation and conclusion. On its own it’s an accurate novelistic portrayal of lead-up and betrayal of the miners during the catastrophic UK General Strike of 1926, and you will more fully understand what makes Evelyn Gifford tick as a woman. My only disappointment is, towards the end, it teeters on the verge of romantic fiction. I prefer my heroines not to think that the love of a strong (and handsome) man to be the best future for women.

I am a fan of Katherine McMahon’s historical novels and as such thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a period of history I know well and find it’s not written about much in fiction, as opposed to political history, but I suppose that will all change in 2026. However, my favourite novel of hers remains The Rose of Sebastopol, closely followed by The Alchemist’s Daughter—although I like all she’s written. She is a fine historical novelist who should be applauded more highly.