Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Sewing Machine – Natalie Fergie

Historical Fiction

I’ll admit I bought my copy of this book in part because of its delightful cover which caught my eye and then on reading two wonderful reviews of this book by Portobello Book Blog and The Quiet Knitter which easily convinced me that I needed to find out the tale of the Singer factory strike which was held in Clydebank, Glasgow in 1911.

I love historical fiction especially that which vividly shows the changes in our lives, particularly women’s lives, over the last century or so and The Sewing Machine squarely hits this brief. In 1911 Ten thousand workers went on strike, eighteen year old Jean being one of them. Jean’s story is one of split loyalties, between her family and her sweetheart and the consequences of the decisions made at this time in her narrative which spans decades.

In 1954 Connie has a Singer Sewing machine, bought in the early days of her marriage and unpredictability of life are beautifully captured in her own narrative and the details of those items she makes on her Singer, each item having a scrap of fabric and a few details entered into a notebook, these excerpts really hitting the mantra that less is sometimes so much more!

The most recent narrative is written by Fred In 2016 who is tasked with clearing his Grandfather’s flat which includes not one but two sewing machines. Fred is a man of this age, he blogs about his life, the big decisions he is forced to make and his memories of his grandparents. I’m not going to lie, I was surprised that we had a male perspective a book which shrieks ‘women’s interest’, one of the many successful and enjoyable departures from the formula often employed by writers in this genre.

In any historical novel the characters are key and each of those who feature are distinct and realistic. Some of the stories told are those that we may well be familiar but given life through the eyes of Natalie Fergie’s creations. My own grandmother had a Singer sewing machine and I used to play with a doll of my mother’s when I visited her house – new clothes were made for her using the flamboyant scraps of material of the 80s to give her a change from those more stylish and refined items she possessed from the 50s. This passing down of her needlework skills from generation to generation is one which was an automatic rite of passage and this feeling of links in a changing world was one of the many delightful aspects of The Sewing Machine with even some of the technicalities of the machine itself being so wonderfully woven through the story one that proved to both entertaining and informative at the same time.

As with any story in this genre there are coincidences but the wealth of historical detail that spans the years this book is brilliant, especially as the choices clearly made to relate in one way or another back to the good old sewing machine, that these are soon accepted as an absolutely possible truth. The Sewing Machine is cleverly constructed with many different threads which are entwined to produce an outstanding read which took this reader through the full range of emotions with each of the perfectly drawn key narrators.

This is one of those books that even though I turned the last page a while back, is still resonating now and I expect it will for some time to come yet. A stunning debut novel that vividly captures both time and place wherever and whenever that happens to be.

First Published UK: 17 April 2017
Publisher: Unbound Digital
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

11 thoughts on “The Sewing Machine – Natalie Fergie

  1. I love the cover too. It certainly is a beauty. The novel seems to offer so much, especially since the heroine has to make choices between two sides close to her heart. I am glad you found a brilliant author. A debut that resonates with me speaks alot about the writer


  2. What a fascinating way to tie several stories together, Cleo. And it makes sense, too, as people have used sewing machines for many generations. I do like novels that have an element of history involved in the plot, so this one appeals to me on that level, too. Thanks for sharing.


  3. This is not my usual sort of book but I really like the sound of it. That cover is gorgeous.
    I spent many hours on my mum’s Singer sewing machine – happy memories. 🙂


  4. I remember those sewing machines – my mum had one and used it to make summer dresses for me. I even used one myself when we were forced to do needlework in school (which I loathed). Going on strike in 1911 was quite a bold thing for women to do at a time when so many men (and women) thought their place should have been in the home anyway and not in a factory


  5. My mother and grandmother had Singer sewing machines…my grandmother’s was a treadle style. I love the look of the machine…and even found a table in a secondhand shop that had the treadle part of the sewing machine as its “legs.” I used that table for a variety of things and in numerous places over the years….and handed it off when I downsized. Sigh.

    This story sounds good, with the voices speaking from different eras. Thanks for sharing.


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