Historical Novel Society review:
Strife is the second book in the Widow Makers trilogy. It is a well-paced, very readable novel in the same successful style of the Widow Makers. It continues the saga of the Standish family who live and work in the Slate mines of North Wales in the 19th century, having moved from the coalfields of Lancashire.
The parents, Joe and Emily, have a very ambitious hard-nosed son Tommy, who becomes manager of the Garddryn quarry and who will do anything in his pursuit of power. Tommy has little feeling or thoughts about his wife, Henrietta, an opium user who suffers depression and about his young son, Edward. His treatment is the same for his father, Joe, and his brother Frank, who are both quarrymen. Joe fights for better pay and fairer working conditions for the quarrymen, and Tommy fights to get every last bit of work out of them to make himself wealthier. Tommy would let his quarry workers and their families starve in his quest for power.
It is a very well-written book with colourful, believable characters and vivid descriptions. The author is a wonderful storyteller who uses authentic well-written language. It is a real page-turner but also a relaxed read that really transports its reader into the time and place. It takes you through highs and lows and makes you feel real anger at the treatment of the workers by Tommy, and its story stays with you after the book in finished.
A great read, well recommended even for readers who have not read the first book as it stands alone as a separate story.
Barbara Goldie for the Historical Novel Society.