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July Book Club Choice

Crooked Pieces by Sarah Grazebrook

Cover of Crooked Pieces

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Longlisted for the RNA Award, this is a compelling historical novel set in London during the Suffragette movement of the early 1900s.Maggie’s new position as a maid lifts her from East End poverty and brings her into the world of the suffragettes, in particular the Pankhursts – icons for a generation of women in search of equality and the right to vote. Before long her life takes another exciting turn when she falls for a young police officer, Fred Thorpe. As Maggie becomes drawn into an increasingly militant battle with the authorities, she is torn between her loyalty to the man she loves and her passionate belief in the cause for which she is fighting.

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Suggested Discussion Points:

Author Q&A

Q. Why did you decide to tackle this particular time period?
Suzana J (Bookalicious), Malta

A. I wanted to try and write a historical novel from a woman’s point of view. There are relatively few periods in our past that are seen from a purely feminine perspective and the struggle for women’s suffrage is one of them. Also I felt it had a lot of relevance to life today. Although there is undoubtedly a lot more equality between the sexes, it is still a struggle for women to progress in certain areas, but at least now they have the right to make themselves heard.

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Q. What is the most interesting thing you have learned about the Suffragettes?
Suzana J, Malta

A. Where to begin! I suppose I was most astonished by just how strong the prejudice was against the Suffragettes. It came not only from the politicians and those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, but from women themselves, of all classes, who either believed that their brains were ‘differently composed’ and fit only for homely duties, or were too blinkered or selfish to care about the conditions in which a huge proportion of the female population was forced to live.


Q. What is your personal opinion of the Suffragettes?
Suzana J, Malta

A. Mixed. If we are talking about the Pankhursts, I am second to none in my admiration for what they achieved and their courage and dedication in doing so. However, I am not sure that I would have got on with them. Christabel, particularly, seems to me to have lacked compassion. She put the battle for women’s suffrage before everything and she expected everyone else to do the same. Having said which, she was a natural leader and in times of war such people are necessary, but heroes are not easy to live with. My greatest respect will always be for the foot soldiers – the poor, uneducated women who were willing to risk so much and sacrifice so much for what must have seemed a pretty hopeless cause a lot of the time.


Q. How did you go about researching the background and the story?
Connor Vaughn, Middlesex

A. The struggle for women’s suffrage is very well documented, both in accounts written later by the protagonists and in the newspapers and journals of the day. I was also lucky enough to come across a radio interview from the 70s in which the granddaughters of some of the major players talked about their memories and experiences of the time. The main difficulty was in deciding what to leave out. Here I was helped by the fact that the story is told in the first person. Maggie couldn’t be everywhere so that in itself limited what could or couldn’t be included and helped me to focus on telling the story from a particular point of view.


Q. The relationship between Maggie and Fred is obviously fraught with the tensions of the times- was this the starting point for the book, or did the idea for this relationship come later?
Elizabeth Clack, London

A. I’m afraid I’m not nearly organised enough to have spotted the outcome of Maggie’s first encounter with Fred! It just sort of grew out of itself. I don’t really plan ahead when I’m writing, I wait and see what comes out of each situation as I go along. That probably sounds ridiculously trite and I don’t want to give the impression that it’s easy or sensible to write this way. It’s just how I do it.


Q. Did you have a clear idea of how the story would develop and end before writing this book?
Victoria Whitehorn, London

A. I think my previous answer probably covers that! I knew I wanted to take a character who knew nothing about the women’s movement and look at it through her eyes. I wanted above all things to avoid hindsight and Maggie’s ignorance and gullibility allowed me to do that, but I certainly had no idea how far she would go in the WSPU or at what point her story would end. She decided that.


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Book Club Reviews

This star review was by H. W. of Surrey.

I read the first page and was instantly hooked. I have never been on such an emotional rollercoaster with a book before; it's truly amazing how involved you become in the suffragette world. It was a tiny bit repetitive at points but it made up for it with gut wrenching twists and suspense. The style is fantastic and refreshingly different. I loved it, it made me laugh, gawp in shock and cry like a baby; magnificent.H. W., Surrey

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