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The Widow Makers: Historical Fiction

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Mead's novel The Widow Makers is inspiring reading; a classic tale, full of all the ingredients which make for the finest novels. Based in the mid-19th century, it tells the story of the young Standish family, who move from the coalfields of Lancashire to the slate quarries of North Wales. The eldest Standish boy is something of a changeling; he desires a different life an Mead's novel The Widow Makers is inspiring reading; a classic tale, full of all the ingredients which make for the finest novels. Based in the mid-19th century, it tells the story of the young Standish family, who move from the coalfields of Lancashire to the slate quarries of North Wales. The eldest Standish boy is something of a changeling; he desires a different life and ruthlessly goes in pursuit of his dream of the grandeur and riches of the landowners' class. Mead's exceptional talent as a raconteur lets us share the family's emotional rollercoaster ride, as they lose the eldest son, as he grasps the riches that are so important to him, regardless of the hurt and misery he causes his family and anyone who dares step in his way. Joe, his father, is a gentle giant of a man and through his eyes we see the beauty and majesty of the Welsh countryside, thus giving this book a greater substance. My only criticism of The Widow Makers was that it ended too soon; I felt bereft! A sequel please. Review Welsh Books Council. A historical family saga, a family feud that survives generations and hides the truth of murder, fraud, conspiracy and eventual betrayal.


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Mead's novel The Widow Makers is inspiring reading; a classic tale, full of all the ingredients which make for the finest novels. Based in the mid-19th century, it tells the story of the young Standish family, who move from the coalfields of Lancashire to the slate quarries of North Wales. The eldest Standish boy is something of a changeling; he desires a different life an Mead's novel The Widow Makers is inspiring reading; a classic tale, full of all the ingredients which make for the finest novels. Based in the mid-19th century, it tells the story of the young Standish family, who move from the coalfields of Lancashire to the slate quarries of North Wales. The eldest Standish boy is something of a changeling; he desires a different life and ruthlessly goes in pursuit of his dream of the grandeur and riches of the landowners' class. Mead's exceptional talent as a raconteur lets us share the family's emotional rollercoaster ride, as they lose the eldest son, as he grasps the riches that are so important to him, regardless of the hurt and misery he causes his family and anyone who dares step in his way. Joe, his father, is a gentle giant of a man and through his eyes we see the beauty and majesty of the Welsh countryside, thus giving this book a greater substance. My only criticism of The Widow Makers was that it ended too soon; I felt bereft! A sequel please. Review Welsh Books Council. A historical family saga, a family feud that survives generations and hides the truth of murder, fraud, conspiracy and eventual betrayal.

30 review for The Widow Makers: Historical Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    My copy, which is not on here on GoodReads: Pug-Ugly cover isn't it, Nazi-esque. Paperback: 296 pages Publisher: Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers (20 July 2005) Language English ISBN-10: 1903490189 ISBN-13: 978-1903490181 Product Dimensions: 20 x 12.8 x 3 cm Prefer this later one: The first page (before the author bio) has been neatly removed. Why? Am I missing sommit? Maybe the author had signed it lovingly to a friend, who knows. Dedication: To my beloved husband Lt.Commander Anthony James Mead. Ma My copy, which is not on here on GoodReads: Pug-Ugly cover isn't it, Nazi-esque. Paperback: 296 pages Publisher: Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers (20 July 2005) Language English ISBN-10: 1903490189 ISBN-13: 978-1903490181 Product Dimensions: 20 x 12.8 x 3 cm Prefer this later one: The first page (before the author bio) has been neatly removed. Why? Am I missing sommit? Maybe the author had signed it lovingly to a friend, who knows. Dedication: To my beloved husband Lt.Commander Anthony James Mead. May the Gods be with you and all who sail with you. Opening: Joe Standish a skinny pale boy, imaginative enough to be afraid of the dark, a weakness he would never have admitted to anyone, least of all his father, had become a miner on his eleventh birthday. A note through from author and flister Jean adds this about the cover: I see you have one of the very early The Widow Makers. This is a first edition so hang on to it. This has been out of print since 2005 and republished 2011 with the new cover. Whoever owned it before you must have removed the page before the author's bio for some reason, maybe they had put their name on it or it has been a library book. The industry-tied crooked doctor theme I have come across before and I suppose it was such an easy fraud to perpetuate with no unions at that time to stop the practice. Owners didn't care one way or another about workers or their families. ------- Much as in Rugby, this is a game of two halves where the second is far to be preferred. So I will deal with it as such: I was never given more than cut-outs of travel, places, people - no image formed in my mind's eye. The writing was defensive and the game in play moved either backwards or at best sideways but the story ball was always left uncaught as these first 200 pages were a dreary period piece. No HWYL at all. Then the book turns on its genre and becomes almost Highsmithesque in sociopathic mode and we (the readers) now know why those first 200 pages of period piece boredom was so cardboard - they didn't matter at all. This section was exciting and Tommy is quite the Steerpike, or in modern TV culture, Thomas Barrow out of Downton Abbey. So coming away from the closing of the back cover we have a Ripley type character in a North Walean slate mine community and his misdeeds are to be further continued in the next two books. The two point five star rating is for the second half - the dent in my wall marks the first.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Faith Mortimer

    A Good 3.5 stars for The Widow Makers I love historical fiction, so I was eager to read this book. The Widow Makers is set in Lancashire and Wales, the period portraying a harsh but factual look at what life was like for coal miners in England and slate miners in Wales. The book concentrates on a family living during this period. Joe and Emily move from the awful conditions in the coal mines of England to the slate mines of Wales, thinking the change will be beneficial. Fed up with their lot, Joe w A Good 3.5 stars for The Widow Makers I love historical fiction, so I was eager to read this book. The Widow Makers is set in Lancashire and Wales, the period portraying a harsh but factual look at what life was like for coal miners in England and slate miners in Wales. The book concentrates on a family living during this period. Joe and Emily move from the awful conditions in the coal mines of England to the slate mines of Wales, thinking the change will be beneficial. Fed up with their lot, Joe wants a better life for his family - hence the move to Wales. Once there, he discovers the conditions are no better. The first part of the book concentrates on Joe and his wife. There is then a switch as their son, Tommy becomes a more prominent character. Tommy, although a clever scholar is the perfect brute. Early on, he sets his sights on a much better life and despises his family. His one aim is to get what he wants, and he has no morals in how he obtains it. Tommy is handsome but ruthless, and allows nobody to stand in his way. I did like this novel, except I found the ending abrupt. Plus, I discovered that really this book should have been titled as part of a serial and not series – there is a subtle difference. Series books can be standalone, whereas books in serials cannot. The book’s descriptive passages are engaging. The author pays good attention to historical detail, plus her knowledge of sailing is excellent (I too sail!) The story flows but there were a couple of things which irritated me and lowered the rating from a four to a good 3.5 stars. I found a lot of grammatical errors, especially in the latter chapters. A further edit would benefit the book and raise it tremendously. However, this didn’t detract too much and I would read the next two books without hesitation.

  3. 4 out of 5

    mois reads

    Widow makers A good book love Emily and Joe going to start the next one I need to see Tommy get his come uppance. I really enjoyed it so definitely worth 5 stars a brilliant book by Jean Mead if you read it yet give it a try x

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    Plot was interesting enough to keep me reading till the end but story was poorly written, quite a few editing issues throughout Kindle edition.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Bridgman

    Fantastically written! This is a 'can't put me down ' book,great characters,very well written,on my way to read the follow on book Fantastically written! This is a 'can't put me down ' book,great characters,very well written,on my way to read the follow on book

  6. 5 out of 5

    jacqueline pulford

    Great read Great interest ing book Well written can't wait to read the next one wondering if he will get his comeuppance and if his son is more like frank Great read Great interest ing book Well written can't wait to read the next one wondering if he will get his comeuppance and if his son is more like frank

  7. 5 out of 5

    T. A. Peters

    Jean Mead’s The Widow Makers is the first of a trilogy of historical fiction books detailing the lives of the members of two families, the Standishes and the Bellamys. The story begins its focus on the life of Joe and Emily Standish and their young son, Tommy. It is the middle of the 19th century, and from his eleventh birthday, Joe has worked as a coal miner in the Galloway pit of Lancashire. At the age of thirty-three, a cave-in at the pit, which results in the death of Joe’s life-long friend Jean Mead’s The Widow Makers is the first of a trilogy of historical fiction books detailing the lives of the members of two families, the Standishes and the Bellamys. The story begins its focus on the life of Joe and Emily Standish and their young son, Tommy. It is the middle of the 19th century, and from his eleventh birthday, Joe has worked as a coal miner in the Galloway pit of Lancashire. At the age of thirty-three, a cave-in at the pit, which results in the death of Joe’s life-long friend Frank, prompts a redirection for the family which ends in a move to Wales where Joe finds employment in a slate quarry known as the Garddryn. Despite the heartache of losing their young daughter Chloe, it is on behalf of the hard work and perseverance of Joe and Emily that it appears that the remaining family will succeed and even prosper albeit at the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder. Unfortunately for young Tommy, just scraping by is not enough, for after being invited to the tenth birthday party of the daughter of the rich owner of the Garddryn, he sets his sights on the grandeur of the Bellamy mansion, Plas Mawr, and becomes relentless in his pursuit of installing himself as its master. As he grows into a man, Tommy Standish will stop at nothing to achieve his ambitious goal of living in opulence, just the same as a natural-born aristocrat. The Widow Makers is a well-conceived generational saga that inserts the reader at what turns out to be a pivotal moment for the ultimate fate of the Standish family, and subsequent to Tommy’s ultimate insertion, the Bellamy family as well. Like a costume drama of high fashion, the author has studiously cloaked the prose of the story in period dialect paying close attention to the regional brogues and expertly inserting the appropriate vocabulary into the narrative without making the tale cumbersome for the modern audience to read page to page. The major problems with the story center around the editing, both line- and copy-. The Widow Makers can easily be considered a success by the standards of self-publishing, but the truth of the matter is that with only the least of efforts by a couple of competent editors, it would be appropriate for publishing as a novel in the traditional sense. For one thing, the length of the book makes it somewhat foreboding, and the lack of direction towards Tommy as the main character of focus for the first third of the book is misleading. Second to that is the fact that the e-book edition I read was so rife with grammatical and spelling errors that, in all seriousness, I do not believe that I flipped an entire page even once without finding something amiss. The constant use of words such as “of” in place of “off” and “to” in place of “too” was one thing, but the lack of proper comma use and frequent, random placing of semi-colons for no apparent reason forced me to stop repeatedly just so I could properly comprehend what I was reading. Ultimately, the broadly drawn characters of both the low-brow Standish and gentry Bellamy families may feel somewhat clichéd, but the star of this show is undoubtedly Tommy himself. While the reader is distracted with the tranquil crests and troughs of the working-class family drama, just beneath the surface lurks something sinister, and it is in the characterization of the sociopathic Tommy that the author’s potent abilities at dissecting the baser human emotions lies. For many readers, focusing on such a violent, egocentric character may be offensive, but then it might be prudent to point out that Hannibal Lecter has featured as the main character of several bestsellers in his time.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Steven Kay

    I don’t often give up on books but this one defeated me about a quarter of the way in: I just ran out of patience and energy with it. The story, as far as I got, is a reasonably well told one, and the characters are interesting enough, if a bit ‘wet.’ (Is it a trend with female historical fiction writers that the male characters lack depth and come across as late 20th century “new men.” Joe Standish in this book just seems a projection of the author’s ideal of masculinity. A tip to authors: don’ I don’t often give up on books but this one defeated me about a quarter of the way in: I just ran out of patience and energy with it. The story, as far as I got, is a reasonably well told one, and the characters are interesting enough, if a bit ‘wet.’ (Is it a trend with female historical fiction writers that the male characters lack depth and come across as late 20th century “new men.” Joe Standish in this book just seems a projection of the author’s ideal of masculinity. A tip to authors: don’t fancy your characters.) The research seems, on the whole, sound: the author’s knowledge of boats is particular impressive to someone who lives far from the sea and calls the front of a boat the “pointy end.” It is not, though, without problems even in this area. Things like a character in the mid 1800s using the term “Nosy Parker”- an early 20th century character from postcards. But none of that is the reason I gave up. It is the inaccuracies in the writing and particularly the lack of understanding of thee and thou. I started cringing every time one came up and it meant I started getting so distracted I couldn’t take in the other words properly. There is no understanding here that thou (or tha in northern dialect) is the subject and thee, the object pronoun. As well as using ‘tha’ as the object sometimes, the author also throws it in as the possessive instead of thy (or thi in northern dialect). This is the point at which I stopped – laughing: “He grinned. ‘Aye, so yer fond of telling me.’ He gave another try at dropping his northern dialect. Although he’d failed at his first attempt, he thought the locals here might be muddled by his thee’s and tha’s.” The locals muddled! So are all the characters, the reader and the author! It took effort to get past the first page, where this occurs: “ ‘Thou’ll work if thee wants to carry on eating and livin’ in the style thee’s become accustomed.’” If you can’t see the problem here, then let’s change this into the 3rd person: ‘He’ll work if him wants to carry on eating and livin’ in the style him’s become accustomed.’ Would you read a book with “him’s” in it? It is not just this fundamental grammatical misunderstanding. Characters use the familiar ‘thee’ when they would have used the more respectful ‘you’ – as in French these days. It is ‘all to pot’ in this book. Admitted, it is not an easy thing to get right for a modern writer (particularly a middle class one who has never “thi and tha’d” themselves) – to convey dialect in a readable way. But it should at least be attempted from a position of having researched and understood the grammar and the usage. If the author were to withdraw this book and carry out a proper edit, I would consider coming back to it, but until then I would advise people to avoid it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bodicia

    This historical saga gives a harsh but real look at what life was like for miners in England and concentrates on a family who lived through those hard times. Joe and Emily move from the coal mines of England to the slate mines of Wales after a cave in causes the coal mine to collapse, killing many of their friends and neighbours. Joe wants a better life for their family so he takes the risk of moving them all to Wales. Once there, the better conditions his friend Frank had promised him seem a dre This historical saga gives a harsh but real look at what life was like for miners in England and concentrates on a family who lived through those hard times. Joe and Emily move from the coal mines of England to the slate mines of Wales after a cave in causes the coal mine to collapse, killing many of their friends and neighbours. Joe wants a better life for their family so he takes the risk of moving them all to Wales. Once there, the better conditions his friend Frank had promised him seem a dream away as Joe and Emily find that one boss is very like another in these times. Their son Tommy has his sights set on much better things from a very young age and begins to look down on his family. His brutal mind focusing on what he wants and how to get it. Tommy is a brilliant scholar and when he gets the chance to take lessons with the mine owner’s son he jumps at the idea, promising himself that one day it will all be his. A dream to most in his position but Tommy is as handsome as he is ruthless and he allows nobody to stand in his way. I liked this saga. My only problem with it is that it ended rather too abruptly for my taste. It is part of a trilogy and is very well written and engaging. The author pays great attention to detail; historical and descriptive. The story flows and it has the makings of a fantastic BBC drama. If you like historical sagas then don’t miss this one.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jaffareadstoo

    Nineteenth century Wales is brought to vivid life in this family saga which takes the reader from the coal mines of Lancashire, to the slate quarries of North Wales. Following a devastating tragedy Joe Standish, his wife, Emily and their small son, Tommy, leave behind friends and family in Lancashire to start a new, and hopefully, better life in Wales. Following the fortunes of this family makes for an enjoyable read, one which is made all the more interesting by the author’s fine eye for detail Nineteenth century Wales is brought to vivid life in this family saga which takes the reader from the coal mines of Lancashire, to the slate quarries of North Wales. Following a devastating tragedy Joe Standish, his wife, Emily and their small son, Tommy, leave behind friends and family in Lancashire to start a new, and hopefully, better life in Wales. Following the fortunes of this family makes for an enjoyable read, one which is made all the more interesting by the author’s fine eye for detail and interesting use of dialect, particularly in the Lancashire sections. All too often vernacular can be overdone, but as a Lancastrian, I found the colloquialisms realistic and appropriate. It was interesting to see the progression this family made during their time in Wales and the direct contrast between the working classes and the upper class quarry owners is done well and demonstrates the difference in social status. There is no doubt that the author has a keen eye for social observation and combines this with an obvious love of history and a well thought out storyline. The Widow Makers is a good start to a trilogy which I am sure will only go from strength to strength as the story progresses.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Karen Ingalls

    4.0 out of 5 starsFascinating Read ByKAREN INGALLSon September 2, 2015 Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase The storyline was wonderful, interesting, and well developed. Each character and scene was well described so I felt like I was there and knew each person. A story about a young married couple who find a new job and life in Wales where the main character finds a job in a quarry. Their first born son is ambitious, very intelligent, and ruthless disregarding the loving home and sacrifices his 4.0 out of 5 starsFascinating Read ByKAREN INGALLSon September 2, 2015 Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase The storyline was wonderful, interesting, and well developed. Each character and scene was well described so I felt like I was there and knew each person. A story about a young married couple who find a new job and life in Wales where the main character finds a job in a quarry. Their first born son is ambitious, very intelligent, and ruthless disregarding the loving home and sacrifices his family made for him. I am anxious to read the second book. The author did a good job writing to fit the dialect.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alistair Dunlop

    This was a good story but my copy was badly proofed. The struggles of miners and quarrymen are graphically described. Working and living conditions in mid 19th century Britain were squalid and dangerous while the owners lived in luxury. Joe Standish does his best to improve conditions for his family and to some extent he succeeds but it is not enough for his elder son. Tommy wants to own the quarry and nothing will stop him. It is a well researched novel but the missing words, misspelled words, wro This was a good story but my copy was badly proofed. The struggles of miners and quarrymen are graphically described. Working and living conditions in mid 19th century Britain were squalid and dangerous while the owners lived in luxury. Joe Standish does his best to improve conditions for his family and to some extent he succeeds but it is not enough for his elder son. Tommy wants to own the quarry and nothing will stop him. It is a well researched novel but the missing words, misspelled words, wrong words and random use of punctuation almost made me give up. One character had a tenor voice when he entered Joe's house but was a baritone when he was leaving! One star less as a result.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This was an easy read and I enjoyed the fact that I could walk away from it and pick up where I left off later. Tommy comes across as a a spoiled brat and just nasty as he grows. All in all it wasn't a bad story but I don't think I would recommend this one. This was an easy read and I enjoyed the fact that I could walk away from it and pick up where I left off later. Tommy comes across as a a spoiled brat and just nasty as he grows. All in all it wasn't a bad story but I don't think I would recommend this one.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    Blood is thicker than water

  15. 5 out of 5

    booklover BEV

    enjoyed every bit of this book was easy to get into as was the first read of this author of the standish family

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

    Very good read!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Diane Alexander

    The author needs to become acquainted with a copy editor or, at the very least, a proofreader. The book was painful to read because of poor writing and atrocious grammar.

  18. 4 out of 5

    margaret park

  19. 5 out of 5

    Donna

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carol

  21. 5 out of 5

    Margaret sinclair

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joan Waters

  23. 5 out of 5

    Joan o'Reilly

  24. 4 out of 5

    mary sanders

  25. 5 out of 5

    Angela Douglass

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jon Jacobs

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aggi Bessant

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy MacRitchie

  29. 5 out of 5

    John Bailey

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jacquie Forbes

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