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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

‘A Mother’s Wish’ by Dilly Court

Three Mills, East London, 1870

The last sack of grain swung perilously over Effie’s head as it was hoisted into the House Mill on the banks of the River Lea. The narrow-boat rose a little higher in the water as if relieved to be divested of it’s heavy cargo, and a thick layer of dust settled on the decking like a generous coating of sugar on a sticky bun. Effie held her hand to her aching back, peering into the gathering gloom to catch sight of Tom, her younger brother, who had gone to collect their horse, Champion, from the patch of waste ground nearby…..

Be it non fiction, or as in this case, fiction, I enjoy reading about life as it was lived in the past, with more than a little awe and admiration for the stoicism and resilience shown by the working classes, in the face of their difficult and often dangerously lived lives.

This opening paragraph takes me back to a time when the canals and rivers of the UK, were used extensively for transporting goods around the country, with the riverfolk living in cramped and uncomfortable conditions, often with very young children responsible for some of the most dangerous and difficult tasks and where education was a self taught lesson, learned from life itself.

As a study of social history, those first lines have me hooked and intrigued.


A picture button for book beginnings at Rose City ReaderWould the first few lines of your book make you want to read on?

If so, would you like to share them with us, (without revealing too many spoilers of course) ?

Click here and visit your host, Gilion @ Rose City Reader

You can then leave a link to your own book beginnings post, or just browse for some great reads, there are always plenty of new authors and titles to be discovered.

Don’t forget that Gilion and all the other contributors to this meme love to hear from you, so why not leave a comment or two at the same time?

I can’t wait to do a little blog hopping myself and check out all the great Book Beginnings you have!


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I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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    • Hi Nikki,

      Thanks for stopping by Fiction Books today. I love meeting new people, so your visits will always be welcome and your comments always appreciated.

      If we all enjoyed reading the same genres of books, or were all moved and inspired by the same words, how dull and boring would that be! It is the diversity of the written word which holds such allure and appeal for me.

      The same goes for reviewing, which in itself is a rather subjective process, as it can ever only be your own personal opinion about a book or storyline. What I may enjoy and want to share, you may find dull or badly written and vice versa!

      I tend to write quite a lot of promotional posts for authors and publishers, that way the reader has the facts and can make up their own minds whether or not to invest time and money reading a particular book.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, even though this week’s book isn’t one for you 🙂

    • Hi Katherine,

      I think that almost every book, be it fiction or non fiction, is a piece of social history, no matter how recent, or historical it may be.

      Hubbie will quite often joke about me wasting my time reading fiction books, when I could be learning something by reading a non fiction or reference book. He is then taken aback when I can comment on an event or occasion in history purely from the perspective of a storyline I have read in a work of fiction.

      Women and children played a huge part in shaping the world as we know it today and they didn’t even need the vote to do it! Their sheer hard work and toil played such a huge part in the evolution of society, that stories such as those written by Dilly Court are a written testament to their endeavours.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment today, I always look forward to you stopping by.

    • Hi Lisa,

      I have very eclectic reading tastes and will give just about any genre of fiction a try, with the possible exception of science fiction, although to be fair, I have never really read anything in the genre and I am therefore probably generalising that I wouldn’t enjoy it!

      Historical Fiction is a genre I used to read quite regularly, until I discovered the mystery / thriller genres and decided that I enjoyed those more, so now I tend to switch between the two.

      Living in the UK, I actually know very little about the life and history of the Amish people, although I have tagged a couple of recommended books to my TBR pile, in the hope of getting to know about the culture a bit more. The extreme hardship early communities endured, no matter what part of the globe they were from, is always a source of excellent social history studies, be it in fiction or non fiction form and all are to be admired in no small way for their triumph over adversity in their everyday lives.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and join in today’s post, I really appreciate it 🙂

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      If you check out author Dilliy Court on ‘Fantastic Fiction’ you will see that she is quite the prolific writer of 19th Century noevls, all in very much the same vein as ‘A Mother’s Wish’ and also the covers for the 20 or so books, have some excellent matching art work …


      Each story deals with a slightly different aspect of the times, but all with the one central theme, of the struggle of the working classes to survivve and endure, in the face of adversity.

      I haven’t read the entire series, but the books all work brilliantly as stand alone novels, which is even better.

      If you get the chance, I can strongly recommend her writing and I don’t think it will take much before you too become hooked 🙂

      Sorry to have taken so long with my reply to your lovely comment .. It has just been one of those weekends!

  • The description in the book’s opening definitely makes me want to read more. I also enjoy stories that are set in the past, especially those that center on working class people and their lives. My blog entry today also takes place in the late 1800s but in rural Kansas, USA.
    Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment with your thoughts.
    Sandy @ TEXAS TWANG

    • Hi Sandra,

      Reading back the words I wrote in the opening of this post, I realise now how snobbish I must sound, by using the phrase ‘working class’. Nothing could be further from the truth, I was simply trying to highlight the vast differences between those who had nothing and those with everything, in times past, although to be honest, has little really changed when you analyse today’s society!

      Education is definitely the defining and differentiating factor in my story, although the ingenuity and perseverance with which Effie and Tom have to approach their daily lives, is surely an education in itself!

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment, I appreciate it and it’s a real shame we don’t live closer, as that American quilting exhibition is calling to me after reading your post 🙂

  • Considering Historical Fiction is possibly my favorite genre of all (even better with mystery thrown in), I too am captured by these opening lines. Working conditions were pretty rough in general during this time, and it sounds like a book that might reflect that well.

    I’m reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Here’s the opening:

    “The king stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored. This was act 4 of ‘King Lear’, a winter night at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. Earlier in the evening, three little girls had played a clapping game onstage as the audience entered, childhood versions of Lear’s daughters, and now they’d returned as hallucinations in the mad scene.”

    • Hi Kelly,

      Is it just me, or in historical novels, do the ‘baddies’ appear much larger than life and so much more aggressive? Even though they might all be working class, there is a distinct pecking order which has to be observed.

      For me, it is the treatment of working class children which is so telling and is really the only area where there has been some improvement in modern living standards, although this still very much depends on whereabouts in the world you are observing and how deeply you are looking!

      I liked your opening lines, although I didn’t think that after reading the synopsis, this was a book I would enjoy too much. I had however, assumed that it was going to be something of a chunkster read and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it only weighed in at 333 pages, so it might well be worth the punt … I especially liked the sound of the violent prophet who digs graves!

      Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your weekend 🙂

  • I go back and forth with historical fiction. I just finished David Copperfield, written in the 1870s. I think I’ve had enough for now.

    I haven’t been leaving comments for awhile, but I appreciate you participating in BBOF. Thanks!

    • Hi Gilion,

      I definitely don’t read any particular genre of book, to the exclusion of all others. I enjoy mixing and matching my genres, for me this diversity is what arouses my interest in reading.

      For me, all books, no matter what their genre or storyline, have something to say about life in general and the social history of our diverse societies; either past, present, or future!

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and say Hi! this week. I appreciate that you continue to host BBOF and although I may not join in every week, I hook up as often as I am able to!

      Have a great weekend,

      Yvonne 🙂

  • I haven’t read them, but Mum’s a big fan of Dilly Court. I’m always having to order Dilly Court’s books for her (and the one’s the author writes under a different name),

    • Hi Nikki,

      I’m not too sure how I feel now!!

      On the one hand I feel quite good because my Mother-in-law reads this kind of story almost exclusively, whereas for me it is an occasional distraction, so I feel quite young.

      Then you tell me that your Mum reads Dilly Court books often and that you order them for her, but don’t read them yourself, so then I feel very old!!

      When Dilly writes as Lily Baxter, her stories take on a much different theme, as the timeline moves right on from the 19th century, up to the 1930s and 40s of the Second World War. I haven’t read anything from this cartalogue of stories yet, although I do have one or two more Dilly Court books on my shelves!

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and for leaving your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to check out the post, despite it not being from a genre you typically read.

  • I love reading about daily life in the past. What I most enjoy about this passage is the author’s beautiful use of language to describe something very mundane.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you for choosing to stop by Fiction Books this week. I love meeting new people, so your visits will always be welcome and your comments always appreciated.

      I too, always enjoy good and relevant, descriptive writing. I want to be transported to whatever era or situation an author is describing and to feel as though I belong there; sights, sounds, smells and thoughts!

      The line which I found most compelling in this opening sequence of ‘A Mother’s Wish’, was …
      “The narrow-boat rose a little higher in the water as if relieved to be divested of it’s heavy cargo, and a thick layer of dust settled on the decking like a generous coating of sugar on a sticky bun.”
      If the dust settled lik this on the boat decking, I can’t begin to imagine how bad it would have felt for Effie!

      Sorry to have been so tardy in replying to your comment … It has just been one of those weekends! 🙂

  • When I read books like that, I always wonder if I would have the strength the characters do. I like to think I would but sometimes I do wonder. Having said all that, I hope I’m never tested to find out for sure.

    • Hi Kathy,

      I think that if we, in the majority of the Western World, were thrown back into the situation of having to work and struggle the same as our predecessors did, largely for survival and a day to day, hand to mouth existence, most of us would be completely lost.

      How long it would take for us to realise that this was the new norm and we just had to get on with it, and what the interim chaos, rebellion and rioting would look like, who knows! There would always be a group of individuals who would claw their way to the top of the tree, whilst for the majority, ‘working class’ would take on a whole new meaning.

      We have very short memories as humans, after all the 1800s were, in reality, not that long ago!

      I’m with you though, in hoping that I am never tested to find out where I would fit in this new order of living, I’m not sure that I would have the strength to survive!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and have a good weekend 🙂

  • I’d keep reading, and I like the setting as well. It is fascinating to think about everything everyday people endured in the past and today still. Happy reading.

    • Hi Naida,

      I too, find books can offer a fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary people, be they non fiction reference or memoirs books, or my own preferred choice, historical fiction.

      By sheer coincidence, as I write this comment, hubbie is in his office putting together the finishing touches to a birthday card he is making for his dad, who celebrates his 90th birthday on Tuesday. He has open on his PC, the local Portsmouth, UK newspaper for the date Dad was born in 1925 and it certainly makes for some fascinating reading!

      Not a ‘situations vacant’ advertisement in sight, but simply “Wanted – Hotel Servant” or “Wanted Domestic Servant” – at least some things have changed for the better, for many of us anyway!

      Thanks for stopping by. I hope that all is well with you and that you have had a good weekend 🙂

Written by Yvonne