Book Review: The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie

Book Review: The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie

It’s been ages since I posted a book review (yet another reason I wish there were 48 hours in a day), so you have to know that, if I post one, the book is way worth sharing.

The Sewing Machine has all of the things that I love in a story: multiple story lines, multiple generations, and enough intrigue to keep me turning the pages. Natalie has done all of this, and more, in The Sewing Machine, and that’s where the whole wonderful story starts… with a sewing machine.

Add to all of that handcrafting, women’s roles in the last several generations, being set in Edinburgh, and even a guest appearance by a Filofax, and I’m all in.

Let’s start with the synopsis from the book itself:

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.

There are three main storylines set in three different time periods within the last 100 years. Each chapter moves from one storyline to the next, which I never found jarring or confusing at all. Starting with the Singer Strike is genius; the scope of this strike is still impressive today as it involved a large number of the 11,000 employees who unified regardless of gender, vocation, or religious differences and brought one of the largest multinational companies in the world at the time to a standstill. This amazing stage is where we are introduced to Jean, whom I absolutely adore as a character. To me, Jean is Everywoman. She works hard, won’t stand for her father’s tyrannical ways, and makes the best of each challenge presented to her by rolling up her sleeves and digging in.

Jean’s actions filter down the generations to the present day, where we meet Fred. Much as Jean’s had been, Fred’s life is thrown into a tumult. We see Fred’s insight into navigating these changes through his private blog, which is another thread running throughout this story… record keeping. Fred’s life hits a point where everything falls apart at once, and he starts to pick up the pieces with the help of his memories of his grandparents.

There’s a whole bunch that happens in between those two time periods that I won’t talk about because it will give too much away, but I will say that I found reading about one time period just as interesting as any other in the story. I was just as interested in seeing what happened with the characters in the 1950s as I was in figuring out what was going on with the characters in the 1980s. And the way it all comes together in the end? (Insert Contented Reader’s sigh here.) Perfect, in my opinion.

This book was a rare treat, and I relished every word. Natalie has a way of writing that feels peaceful and captivating at the same time. It boggles my mind to figure out how she did it, but she pulled it off with beautifully.

Here in the States, you can find The Sewing Machine on Kindle. **EDITED TO ADD: if you’d prefer a physical copy, it is also available from the Book Depository!** It was published by Unbound, which is a fantastic resource for authors. For my readers in the UK (lucky you!), you can get a physical copy (did you see that beautiful cover?) from Blackwell’s Edinburgh at 0131 622 8222 or The Big Green Bookshop at 0208 881 6767 (I believe both will ship it for free).

Natalie Fergie is a textile enthusiast, and has spent the last ten years running a one woman dyeing business, sending parcels of colourful and unique yarn and thread all over the world. Before this she had a 27 year career as nurse and latterly, as a Health Visitor.

Natalie lives near Edinburgh with her husband, and a dog called Boris. Her sons have flown the nest.

The Singer 99k which was the inspiration for novel has had at least four previous owners, possibly more. It was bought for £20 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.

This is just one stop on Natalie’s Book Review Blog Tour… please check out all of the others!