About this book…
It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.
Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.
More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents. His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.
He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.
The first thing I did when I finished The Sewing Machine was to call my mum to tell her she HAD to buy this book (she did! I have her well trained!). The second thing I did was to sit and wonder how on earth I was going to write a review that would manage to convey just how much this book affected me and how I would ever find the words to convince others to buy and read this stunning book! It is currently now sitting at the top of my favourite reads for 2017 but the incredible thing is that I nearly didn’t read it! And bizarrely, it’s all thanks to Marmite that I did! A chance conversation over on Twitter about my love for that opinion-dividing, tasty, brown food of the gods lead to the author sending me a screenshot of a page from her book where Fred finds empty Marmite jars everywhere whilst clearing out his grandfathers flat. That passage gave me goosebumps and I knew that this beautifully poetic prose was leading me to something very special indeed. And it did-it lead me to The Sewing Machine.
Everything about this book worked for me! I always find that the setting is just as important as the storyline and characters so for me to discover that Edinburgh plays a huge part in The Sewing Machine was a delightful surprise. I know Edinburgh very well and have a huge soft spot for it. I lived there for 4 years whilst at uni and I met my hubby (The Grumpy Scotsman) there too so we often return to spend time in the city that brought us together. I was fascinated to see the places I know so well, like the Old Royal Infirmary where I did some placements, used within multiple time frames in this novel so that I was looking at them with fresh eyes. And I also know of the Singer factory as I used to live near Clydebank where it was a well know local landmark and it was such a sad day for the town when the remaining buildings were finally demolished. So to see it brought to life again, lifted off the pages with the vibrancy of Natalie Fergies passionate descriptions of its workers and their circumstances, was a joy to experience. I learned to sew on my mum’s glossy black vintage Singer and the memories of those times came flooding back as I became involved in the fates of Jean, Kathleen, Connie and Fred.
The lives of these characters are connected by a Singer 99K and the multiple timelines are beautifully crafted, weaving together to create a family journey of nostalgia that I defy anyone reading not to be affected by it. Once you pick up The Sewing Machine you will become so engrossed in their lives that you won’t want to let them go. Even now 3 days after finishing it, I want to go back and search out those women, I need to know MORE!! I want to experience the years we didn’t get to see and follow Fred through the next phase of his life.
I have always felt that the themes of family, especially in the history and stories that we pass down the generations, are of paramount importance within our society and The Sewing Machine has reinforced my own ideas about keeping our relatives alive in our memories through photos, yarns and family heirlooms. As the threads of these family stories were expertly woven together, it evoked long forgotten memories and emotions in me and I lost touch with reality for a while as I became entwined within the past. As the richly embroidered tapestry of life brings all our characters together, I got those goosebumps again and a feeling that all was finally as it should be in the world. There is so much here that is relevant to our modern society today and I’m so glad that things seem to be coming full circle with “make do and mend”, crafting and upcycling becoming fashionable again.
I can not recommend this book highly enough and I now want to buy it in paperback so I can display it, as the work of art that it rightly is, on my bookshelf. It’s an endearing story, beautifully told and intelligently written. One of the best debut novels I have ever read!
The Sewing Machine is published by Unbound and is available to purchase now.
Update! Since writing this Natalie Fergie and The Sewing Machine have been made the long list for the Not the Booker Prize and you can vote for her HERE
Meet the author…
Natalie Fergie is a textile enthusiast, and has spent the last ten years running a one-woman dyeing business, sending parcels of unique yarn and thread all over the world. Before this she had a career in nursing. She lives near Edinburgh. The Singer 99K, which was the inspiration for this novel, has had at least four previous owners. It was bought for GBP20 from someone who lived in Clydebank, just a stone’s throw from the site of the factory where it was made a hundred years earlier. It’s quite possible that there are another eight sewing machines in her house. She blogs at http://www.nataliefergie.com and can be found on Twitter as @theyarnyard.