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Lancashire Lass

Anna Jacobs

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Coronet

Published : 2000

Copyright : Anna Jacobs 2000

ISBN-10 : PB 0-340-74827-3
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-340-74827-5

Publisher's Write-Up

Seventeen-year-old Liza is happy working as a maid until her father takes her away to marry her to a loutish widower. So vehement is her refusal that the widower decides the only way to secure his bride is to rape her.

But Liza's spirit will not be broken: she escapes from her Lancashire mill town, setting out with her former employers on the long voyage to Western Australia. Other Lancashire folk are also seeking a new life. Josiah Ludlam has been sent away in disgrace by his wealthy father, and Benedict Caine has been bribed to accompany him.

On the ship Liza finds she is pregnant and Josiah's wife realises she has not long to live. While helping the young servant girl, Catherine Ludlam makes plans which set several people's lives on a surprising new course.

Liza finds life in 1850s Australia hard but it will offer her opportunities she could never have dreamed of back home. Until she discovers that her Lancashire past can still reach out halfway round the world and bring her into danger...

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Chrissi (010602) Rating (8/10)

Review by Chrissi
Rating 8/10
This was the first Anna Jacobs book that I read after we received them. Set in the middle of the nineteenth century, when girls, if they were lucky, got to go into service to wealthy families, and if they were unlucky, were married, pregnant and poor.

Liza is in service to a nice but not extremely wealthy family who are sad to see her leave when her father fetches her, saying that she must come home to look after her ailing mother.

Unfortunately, it is not for her mother that she has been fetched, it is so that she can be married to a man whose wife has passed away. He lives nearby and appears to Liza old and nasty and has been known to beat his wife. Liza refuses to marry this man but is told by her father that she has no choice in the matter. He is not a mean man but rater selfish, and wants his daughter to marry for his own, personal benefit, as the man, Teddy Marshall, is a clogger, making footwear which is cheap and sturdy, and makes a good living.

Liza remains determined that she will not marry, but one night is forced to go to Marshall's house, where Marshall pays her brother to leave her alone with him. The following morning, her father finds out where she has gone and is furious, at both Marshall and the son who sold Liza to Marshall for the night. Marshall is still determined to marry Liza and feels that this attack was necessary to get her to marry him.

Liza is still determined that she will not marry him and when she sees an advertisement for women of good character to go the Australia to be maids, she considers this option very carefully.

This is the beginning of a saga, with the lives of a group of people being intertwined. Liza finds that she is pregnant, and in a rather strange twist, gets married to a man whose wife is dying of breast cancer, to whom she has been acting as maid. At the same time, she is becoming very close to another man, Benedict, whom she feels more for than her new husband. It is all rather complicated.

Liza's daughter is named after her husbands dead wife in a rather bizarre twist, and as they settle in Australia, she finds more and more that her husband is not a very able man, so she turns to Benedict for help, even to the degree that she calls for him when she gives birth. It is rather inevitable that she and Benedict should embark on an affair.

I have never been to Australia, but it is by all accounts a very visually striking country. I could not imagine how the early settlers (settlers, mind, not convicts,) must have found it. The journey described must have been awful, three to four months on a sailing ship with people sharing bunks in steerage, a lack of water and fresh foods. We take quick travel so much for granted that I cannot comprehend the conditions that they must have experienced.

The story is well plotted, if very complicated, and at times very poignant. The relationships between the aborigine people and the rather class conscious settlers are not the way that we would like to think of ourselves, but even so, there are some very supportive relationships formed between people who, in England, would not have acknowledged each other in the street.

Liza is one of those characters who take the most awful events in their stride. When her vicious brother follows her to Australia, having become too infamous to live near their parent's home, he cannot forgive her for the trouble caused when he sold her for the night. He comes to wreak revenge and Liza, although surprised, copes very well.

In spite of the complicated lives led by these people, the book really reads well. It may sound like one of those historical romances, but it has a stronger underpinning than that. The knowledge of early Australian settling is such that, even with geography as awful as mine, you have a sense of the distances travelled and the kind of landscape that they made their home in.

The contrast between Industrial Lancashire and the Australian Bush is so striking; it could almost make me want to see it for myself. I suppose that is the joy of reading the work of an author who knows both settings.

I have to wonder whether the other books are all set between countries, the first two that I have read are, but the last is purely set in England. It does add that bit extra, though, to have the story over two continents, extra that really makes the reading worthwhile.
Chrissi (1st June 2002)

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