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Book review: The Glovemaker’s Daughter by Leah Fleming

The Glovemakers Daughter by Leah Fleming
The Glovemakers Daughter by Leah Fleming

Born into an isolated Quaker community in 17th century Yorkshire, Joy Moorside’s life will be marked out by obedience and strict adherence to her faith… but what is duty without love for a passionate and rebellious young woman?

Lancashire-born Leah Fleming, much-loved author of The Last Pearl and The Railway Girls, takes us on a thrilling journey from the rugged dales and fells of West Yorkshire to the wilds of the New World in Pennsylvania in a sweeping novel of dark family secrets, betrayal, love and redemption.

Immaculately researched, and with real history at its heart, The Glovemaker’s Daughter is the tumultuous story of Joy Moorside, orphaned as a baby, raised amidst the persecution of religious dissenters and possessed of ‘the sight,’ a rare gift that will rule and endanger her life.

When Alice Moorside died in childbirth at Windebank Farm in Yorkshire in 1666, it was only hours after she and her husband Matthew had left York jail where they had been imprisoned for marrying outside the Church.

Named Rejoice (Joy) by her father who also dies shortly afterwards, Joy is raised by her Quaker farmer uncle and aunt. Restless and clever, Joy seems to be a girl ‘born for trouble’ but she is also a girl of conscience and has grown up witnessing the persecution of the farming community for following George Fox’s banned movement of Seekers.

Wilful and determined, Joy is soon falling foul of the local constables and fears that her gift of premonition could bring accusations of witchcraft. Defying the authority of the local priest, she joins a group of Yorkshire pioneers setting sail for the New World to form a colony near Philadelphia.

But life is tough and unforgiving in Good Hope, ‘a town made out of wilderness,’ and Joy fears that she may never find peace and love.

Centuries later, in 2014, a leather-bound book is found buried in the walls of the Meeting House in Good Hope, Pennsylvania. A hand-written diary, it traces the owner back to a Yorkshire farm in the Dales. As a correspondence begins between Rachel Moorside and Sam Storer, the man who found the journal, Rachel uncovers the tumultuous secrets of her family’s history…

The Glovemaker’s Daughter sees Fleming on top form as we weave between past and present to discover the harsh realities of life for Quaker communities whose banned faith left them open to ridicule, suspicion, hatred, violence… and imprisonment.

The star of this compelling story is Joy, a brave and determined woman torn between her religious convictions and her desire to love and be loved. Her journey from shy, troubled orphan girl to New World pioneer is told with the warmth, insight and rich historical detail that have become the trademarks of Fleming’s masterful storytelling.

Brimming with drama, emotion, hardship and self-discovery, this is a beautiful and absorbing tale which pays to the indomitability of the human spirit.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)