Manchester 1819: Prices are high and wages are low, but as the poor become poorer, the rich are alarmed by their calls for reform.
Mill-worker Nancy Kay struggles to support her ailing mother and sensitive son. Desperate to provide for them, she is inspired to join the growing agitation. But, as she risks everything to attend a great assembly on St Peter’s Field, Nancy is unaware the day will go down in history, not as a triumph but as tragedy; the Peterloo massacre.
This is one woman’s story of belief in change, pieced together by her family and friends and the two men who share her momentous summer. A story of hope, and sacrifice, and above all, courage.
What Readers and Reviewers Say
A vivid, moving and beautifully written story that embodies a great and terrible political moment in the lives and voices of the ordinary people whose existence would never be the same again’ Emma Darwin
‘Lyrical, earthy and compelling, Carolyn O’Brien’s portrait of an event that would become a stain upon the conscience of nineteenth century Britain is told through the authentic voices of individuals caught up in its midst. This is history seen from the inside‘ Brian Keaney, author of The Alphabet of Heart’s Desire
‘With its echoes of Mrs Gaskell and George Eliot, it is a powerful, heartfelt story, which vividly reimagines the harsh lives of early nineteenth century mill-workers and the growing yearning for reform. It is an exceptionally timely book – not only because this is the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, but because it forcefully reminds us of the human cost our forebears paid for political freedoms that we seem, increasingly, in danger of taking for granted’ James Wilson, author of The Summer of Broken Stories
‘The hope, excitement and tragedy are brought to vivid life through Nancy Kay, a heroine not just for 1819 but 2019 too‘ Dr Jacqueline Riding, Historian, Curator and Author
‘The commemoration of the anniversary of Peterloo is well served by this beautifully written novel by O’Brien… Brilliantly paced and from different fascinating perspectives, this is a book of the people who were involved in a significant event on a human level. Featuring a woman of strength, curiosity and courage, this moving tale will bring history alive as the characters tell their story of a life changing day of enormous excitement’ Julie Barham, Northernreader
‘A fine tribute to the Mancunians who were prepared to fight for political representation and change society for the better. Marvellous book. Vivid, gripping and so evocative… Carolyn O’Brien is a modern day Isabella Banks!’ Dr Janette Martin, The John Rylands Library
‘A poignant and passionate tale of the power of the human spirit to soar above the bonds of oppression. It is also a timely reminder that the freedoms we enjoy today have been won at great cost and should never be taken for granted. Carolyn O’Brien has written a fitting tribute to the men and women of Manchester who stood up for equality, freedom, and dignity in the year 1819. I highly recommend it as part of remembering the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre’ P.K. Adams, author of The Greenest Branch