Monday, 3 May 2010
Clash (Wilkinson) 313
"Joan had not a great voice. With so slight a frame that would not have been possible, but she knew how to use what she had. Her enunciation was clear. Every word finished with a click. The musical timbre of her voice made her clearly audible through the hall. The men and women hung on her words. Briefly, impressively, she told the well-known story of the muddle of the mines - the profits in wartime, the sudden decontrol in 1921, the disastrous lock-out and long struggle, the loss of Continental markets, muddle and waste at home - the 1925 Budget which made further reductions inevitable...it was familiar enough in its details to her audience, but as she told it, the case was terrible".
Joan, the main heroine of Clash, is a trade union organizer, heavily involved in the 1926 General Strike. The book follows her through the week of the strike and afterwards, and gives a wonderful insight into the events from a young, female, radical perspective. Ellen Wilkinson, the author, was herself one of the first female trade union organisers and obviously drew greatly on her experience to write this novel. But it's not just a novel about politics - a thread of the story deals with Joan's personal life and the conflict she has in choosing between two men who are interested in her - the one who wants her to give up politics and the one who is happy to wait for her.
The introduction gives more information about Ellen Wilkinson's life - she sounds like a fascinating person and I must seek out a proper biography.
It's just been published once by Virago, with this incredibly striking cover image. I was kindly lent a copy by Simon from Stuck in a book.