Social Unrest, Love and Hope in Nineteenth Century Nottingham
Love and hope is challenged by social division and turmoil as the Industrial Revolution causes poverty and revolt amongst Nottingham's working classes.
In the nineteenth century, Narrow Marsh was a notorious slum at the foot of the cliff below Nottingham’s St Mary’s Church. It was a centre for home based stocking knitters who were suffering from falling prices and increasing industrialisation reducing already low earnings. Poverty was increasing whilst the wealth of the new industrialists was growing. Narrow Marsh’s crowded alleys were also a haven to much of Nottingham’s criminal fraternity.
A Period of Social Unrest and Division
Narrow Marsh is set at the start of the nineteenth century when the new technologies of the Industrial Revolution were replacing craft stocking knitters. Industrialists were moving manufacturing from small home workshops to gain the economies of scale and control of factory based production. The falling incomes were compounded by changing fashions putting the demand for stockings in decline.
Love and Hope Across the Social Classes
The main characters come from very different backgrounds William Daniels lives in Narrow Marsh in a family of hard-working and honest stocking knitters who are suffering with the decline of the industry and prices for their work. William is the strong-willed eldest son who does not simply accept his position.
Abigail Brown is the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. She also knows her own mind and is prepared to defy her family’s intention to make a marriage of convenience with a much older member of the aristocracy. By chance she meets the youthful William while riding in Wollaton Park and that defiance is strengthened.
From then on the story chronicles their growth to majority amidst the social division and criminal attempts to drive them apart.
Accurate Social History and Geography of Nottingham
The historical context in Narrow Marsh is well portrayed and provides a clear sense of the division between rich and poor. It particularly highlights the experience of many that the law protected the established order at the expense of equity for the ordinary person. Similarly the geography will be recognisable to anyone who knows the Nottingham area and its history.
The story moves along at a good pace and encourages the reader to keep reading. However the writing is a little single paced and does not do the content full justice. It is not helped by typography that does not separate the scenes within a chapter. An experienced fiction editor would have helped the author get much more from the story or colour. A pity, as there is considerable merit in Narrow Marsh.
Most readers will not be bothered by such criticism or will see past it to the underlying story. Indeed many must already have done so as it was on prominent display in Nottingham’s main bookshop for many months after its publication – it would not have kept that position if it was not selling.
Opportunity for a Costume Drama
The filmic scenes and story line of Narrow Marsh would lend itself to adaption as a film or a television costume drama. A director with experienced actors would be able to bring out the colour that Narrow Marsh undoubtedly contains.
Narrow Marsh is a compact volume and its structure lends itself to being picked up in odd moments, while commuting or as bed time reading.
Narrow Marsh (ISBN:978-0-95558133-0-6) by A R Dance is published at £6.99 by Arundel Books.
First reviewed on Suite101