#Bookreview – The Mule Spinner’s Daughters by G.J. Griffiths

What Amazon says

“… Sebastian said: But there is an obstacle, a principle of hers that she’s read of in a book by a woman called Mary Wollstonecraft…”
“… Women should be wives and companions to their husbands…”

Did Wollstonecraft, the mother of Mary Shelley, author of ‘Frankenstein’, fill the farm girl’s head with too many ideas of feminism?

When Sally Sefton runs away from Sebastian at the altar on her wedding day there is a desperate chase to find her. Some of her friends think they know why she ran. But only Cathy Priestley thinks she knows where. Her chief bridesmaid suspects Sally may have joined the Christian Israelites. Will they find her before the group sails on a missionary tour abroad? The split causes a bitter dispute between Sebastian and Wesley, her brother. While feelings are running so high there seems to be no hope of reconciliation between the families.

Book One in the series, ‘The Quarry Bank Runaways’, tells the much earlier tale of their fathers when they journeyed on foot to Hackney workhouse in London. They were then boy apprentices who had escaped from the Cheshire cotton mill, desperate to find their destitute mothers.

Book two, ‘Mules; Masters & Mud’, is about what happened to the apprentices during the Industrial Revolution, when they were qualified cotton mule spinners. Serious events, including the Peterloo Massacre, impinge upon the lives of Thomas Priestley and Joseph Sefton.

My review

The Mule Spinners’ Daughters is the third book in the Tales of the Quarry Bank Mill series. I have read all three and particularly enjoyed the introduction of a more female experience and perspective in this latest book.

The book starts by reintroducing the reader to the Sefton and Priestly families and I welcomed the reminder of who the various family members where and the backgrounds of Joseph Sefton and Thomas Priestly.

The story starts with the beautiful Sally Sefton being jilted at the altar by a young man named Sebastian Brewster. Sebastian is a new addition to the story, but the fact that he arrives drunk to his own wedding and decides he’s changed his mind about an aspect of their futures lives he has clearly previously agreed to, immediately makes him a distasteful person, especially if you have read the previous book and already grown to love the sweet but spirited Sally.

The story then regresses to the time when Sally first meets Sebastian, the second son of the local undertaker, Jonas Brewster, when he assists, firstly, with the funeral arrangements for Sally’s father, Joseph, the best friend of Thomas Priestly, and a short while later, her older brother, Gabe. The deaths of these two family members leave Sally and her younger brother, Wesley, to run the farm, together with their Uncle Daniel. It also means that Sally is a woman of some wealth as she owns a share in the farm.

Sebastian and his older brother live firmly beneath the thumb of their domineering and sarcastic father and the sensitive Sebastian chafes under his father’s rude and heavy handed treatment of him. He longs to get away from his father and create his own wealth. When he meets Sally, and learns of her circumstances, marriage to her seems to be the opportunity he has been waiting for. Sebastian has plans for Sally’s money after they are married.

The Priestly family also feature strongly in this book with the focus being on the kind and intelligent Catherine Priestly. Catherine decides she doesn’t want to work in her father’s store and sets her mind to becoming a teacher. Her path to teaching success is beset with some irritations and problems, particularly the seemingly arrogant James Longton, a teacher with more experience than Catherine who is determined to show her the error of her teaching methods.

The two romances are tied together by the false Prophet Wroe, who is much admired by Thomas Priestly who has attended a number of his religious services. Thomas introduces both Catherine and Sally to the Prophet’s church.

I enjoyed the character development in this book. It was lovely to see Catherine growing into an independent young woman with enough strength of character to see the error of her hasty judgement of James and discover his good points. Her loyalty to Sally is also wonderful to read about.

Sally remains strong willed and spirited and appears to have been led astray by the charms of the selfish and snobby Sebastian, but her natural levelheadedness and honesty overcome adversity in the end.

These stories are extremely well research and the author blends the history with the fictional elements of this story seamlessly. If you enjoy reading about life during the early to mid-19th century packaged as an interesting family drama, you will definitely love this book.

Purchase The Mule Spinner’s Daughters

I have also read and enjoyed the first two books in this series.

You can read my review of The Quarry Bank Runaways here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R2A8CQ16EU09MU

You can read my review of Mules; Masters & Mud here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07BTLMQBZ

5 thoughts on “#Bookreview – The Mule Spinner’s Daughters by G.J. Griffiths

  1. Good review. Wollstonecraft was more reviled (socially and culturally) than revered in the 19th Century. I wonder how a young rural woman would have gained access to her work, though, unless through Wollstonecraft’s earlier works that cloaked her ideas of equality and female education in manners and social graces books until she flat out called for an educational revolution in “Vindication”. One thing I’ll give the Brits, from Blake to Wollstonecraft and beyond, the anarchist’s cries do not go unheard and are not without literary impact.

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    1. HI Phil, you are right about that. British people stand together and force change and ensure they are not downtrodden. Of course, they were very badly treated through the centuries by the numerous conquerors but it never broke their fighting spirit. In this book, Sally’s father, Joseph, and uncle, Tom, are both activists in their younger days so maybe that is how she got hold of such books.

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