Like Fire-Hearted Suns

Like Fire-Hearted Suns

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Forthcoming March 6th 2024

Susans's Review

Melanie Joosten’s second novel, Like Fire-hearted Suns, is a wonderfully immersive read that combines extensive historical research, imaginative depth and an intelligent depiction of important movements for social justice. Set in England and spanning the years 1908 to 1961, the novel focuses on the lives of three fictional and vividly realised female characters. Catherine is a pragmatic science student; her friend Beatrice is a firebrand political activist; Ida is an grimly cynical warden in Holloway Prison. Their individual experiences, and the connections and conflicts between them, are charted amidst the turbulence of the Suffragette Movement, the horrors of the two World Wars, and the consternations of old age.

While the novel is partly a critique of a patriarchal culture hostile to the interests of women, it is also a complex exploration of the morality and consequences of women’s choices. Catherine is burdened with guilt about her secret work during World War One. Beatrice chafes against the demands of motherhood to continue her search for social justice. The widowed Ida relinquishes her beloved sons out of economic necessity. In the wider social sphere, the aims of the middle-class Suffragette Movement are compromised by its members’ use of violence and a relative indifference to the problems of working-class women.

Like Fire-hearted Suns is also about the complications of love: how the bonds between siblings, parents and children, husbands and wives, can be unsettled, if not entirely broken, by a range of pressing social issues: political activism, pacificism, feminine ambition and the demands of motherhood. The novel is sometimes a harrowing or heartbreaking read; it’s always thought-provoking and beautifully written. It’s not due for release until March, but it’s already one of my picks for the year.

 

Publishers Reviews

 

For those who enjoyed The Dictionary of Lost Words and Lessons in Chemistry, Melanie Joosten's latest novel will fuel appreciation for the women who advocated for gender equality, no matter the cost. – Books+Publishing

The cost of freedom is sacrifice
 
London, 1908. It’s the dawn of a new century and change is in the air.
 
When 17-year-old Beatrice Taylor stumbles across the offices of the infamous Pankhursts and the Women’s Social and Political Union she begins to realise her future may not be the one she wants.
 
Her friend Catherine Dawson is too pragmatic to get caught up in the women’s suffrage movement. Despite Oxford refusing to award women degrees she is determined to keep apace with her twin brother and pursue a career in science.
 
Meanwhile, Ida Bennett, recently promoted to head wardress of DX wing at Holloway Prison, has her work cut out for her. The suffragette inmates are refusing to be treated like criminals—and Ida's not having any of it.
 
This is the story of three women whose lives become entwined—with the burgeoning women’s movement and with each other. Like Fire-Hearted Suns shows how much things have changed for women—and how much they stay the same.