Wealhtheow's Reviews > Fenwomen: A Portrait Of Women In An English Village

Fenwomen by Mary Chamberlain
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's review
Apr 14, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: british-history, historical, sociology, non-fiction
Recommended for: fans of Angela's Ashes
Read in April, 2009

After living in an East Anglian village, Gislea, for a few years, Chamberlain wrote a book about life there. It is told primarily through interviews with the women. It is a heartbreaking, enthralling tale of desperate poverty, generation long prejudices, and familial warmth. Most of the interviews talked about the back breaking labor, lack of intellectual opportunities, and loneliness of living in the fen. This was written in the 1970s, and so many of the subjects remember back to life at the turn of the 19th century.

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Reading Progress

04/14/2009 page 32 "postman would walk along the bank (no roads) and blow a horn opposite your house if you had mail, and you'd fetch the letter from him"
04/14/2009 page 36 "Mother used to make these boiled puddings...Father had the little piece of meat and we had the onions and the gravy."
04/14/2009 page 37 "'You've given him a bigger piece of cheese than me.'Mother said'You eat your bread and smell your cheese.' Three kids would split 1 kipper"
04/14/2009 page 40 "Mum explained,'I don't know what I'm going to give my children to eat.'And she said,'I've got a bone you can have.'"
04/14/2009 page 48 "'Anyway, I want to marry when I'm 19, that's a good age I think. So it's not worth going on at school. I don't know who I'll marry yet.'"
04/14/2009 page 55 "Children miss school for:fieldwork, picking walnuts, gleaning, stag hunt, cleaning house for Whitsuntide, potato picking, bird scaring,"
04/14/2009 page 70 "Food in the fens used to be better, but now the fresh produce gets shipped out and tins and frozen food is shipped in"
04/14/2009 page 81 "'9 children Hory gave me. 1 dies in the war. 25 he were. I've had a hard life. A very hard life. I don't want them days back no more.'"
04/14/2009 page 94 "'Please God...'I was crying, picking these potatoes up and 'Please God, let me keep up so I can keep this job.'"
04/14/2009 page 146 "And after the war, people moved in and got cars, so our own entertainments all died. That were a shame. We had some lovely times..."
04/14/2009 page 169 "They [the children] knew that once they'd had their midday meal on Friday, that was it until Saturday and pay day."
04/14/2009 page 178 "'I had 1/2 a shoulder of lamb. That were £1.7p. And I used to buy a whole shoulder for half-a-crown. It's wicked.' Old people make me cry"
04/14/2009 page 180 "The over-60s club gives a dinner for 'people who have helped us through the year. Like the shopkeeper who gives us cut-price Ovaltine...'"
04/14/2009 page 184 "The sovereign remedy for whooping cough used to be mouse ried on a fork of wych-hazel"
04/14/2009 page 185 "Toothache was treated by tying a scraped horseradish round the wrist.A piece of red flannel tied over the throat treats a sore throat."

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