Sally Heathcote: Suffragette

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Read 29/12/2014

Rating: 3 stars

It was International Women’s Day this week, so I thought I’d post a review of a graphic novel about suffragettes that I read just over a year ago.

I’m in the 50 Book Challenge group on LibraryThing and was struggling to meet my challenge to myself in 2014. It was nearly the end of December, I was 2 books short, and I had the graphic novel Sally Heathcote hanging around by the bed, so I went for that one as a bit of easy reading. It was okay. Nothing groundbreaking, but a decently written and illustrated imagining of what life as a suffragette might have been like.

I bought the book from the exhibition shop at the British Library’s Comics Unmasked. I’d been impressed by the section on women in comic book art which featured Mary and Bryan Talbot, the author and co-artist for this book.

I wanted to be blown away by it, but found it a bit flat. At least it was a quick read. It helped that I already knew aspects of the history of women’s suffrage. There are notes fleshing out the events in the novel, but Mary Talbot recommends reading the book through first, to allow the story to flow, before referring to the notes. I found the story a little simplistic at times, but it covered the main ground fairly well. The author’s sympathies lie with Emmeline Pethick and her husband Fred Lawrence, and she spares no censure for the path taken by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst.

The artwork is beautiful, and you get a sense of the era. The book succeeds in bringing the Pethick Lawrences out of the shadow of the more militant Pankhursts. It was interesting to learn about their social philanthropy and about the factions that existed within the suffrage movement.

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