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The Sweetest Thing
Synopses & Reviews
When Harriet, a working-class girl who, with her friend Mary has left her coastal job of collecting and gutting fish, stops on a bridge in her newly adopted home in York, she is approached by an upper-class gentleman. Samuel is a Quaker, a good soul, and a man interested in the new science of photography. He also collects photographs of working-class girls in their working clothes. Samuel invites the girls to come to his friend's studio. While Mary is almost instantly lost to the art of photography, Harriet, a sturdier sort, goes on to get a job in the Quaker-owned Wetherby's Chocolate Factory. She soon catches the eye of a young clerk who is one of the favourites of the owners and through him discovers the deadly rivalry between the chocolate-makers.
Samuel is also taken with the young Harriet, though because of class, he watches her from afar, until his sister — "mad Grace" locked away in an asylum — becomes part of their mutual story.
Set in York in the early 1900s, The Sweetest Thing is a true Victorian novel with a large cast and wonderfully intriguing subplots, set at a moment of great social change.
"The Sweetest Thing captures all the mouth-watering sweetness of desire (for freedom, for cocoa, for a face in a photograph), as well as the dusty grit it leaves on the lips." Emma Donoghue
"[R]ichly researched, warmly characterised and admirably humane." Daily Mail
A brilliant historical novel about working girls and upper-class men; about photography and chocolate factories; about mad women and Quakers.
About the Author
Fiona Shaw lives in York. She is the author of the extrarordinary memoir of post-natal depression, Out of Me.
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