Book Review: Emma's Tapestry by Isobel Blackthorn
At the dawn of World War Two, German-born nurse Emma Taylor sits by the bedside of a Jewish heiress in London as she reminisces over her dear friend, Oscar Wilde.
As the story of Wilde unravels, so does Emma’s past. What really happened to her husband?
She’s taken back to her days in Singapore on the eve of World War One. To her disappointing marriage to a British export agent, her struggle to fit into colonial life and the need to hide her true identity.
Emma is caught up in history, the highs, the lows, the adventures. A deadly mutiny, terrifying rice riots and a confrontation with the Ku Klux Klan bring home, for all migrants, the fragility of belonging.
Emma’s Tapestry is an imaginative retelling of the remarkable life of the author’s great- grandmother.
Isobel Blackthorn has the intriguing skill of melding fiction with history with such subtle panache it is hard to tell which is which (so one might as well believe everything as truth, yes?). In Emma’s Tapestry, Blackthorn introduces a family history that hints at the potential for a saga and, with any luck, a sequel.
The history forms part of Emma’s journey from her young adult years as a trainee nurse in Philadelphia and marriage to ambitious Englishman Ernest Taylor to motherhood and beyond. Emma’s Mennonite background and strong spiritual beliefs form a sound foundation in her life, creating a nexus of rebelliousness and regret as she forges a life apart from her strict family. She spends her life hiding her background behind her husband’s Englishness. German nationality was not welcomed in American and English societies.
The personal behind-the-scenes glimpses into the lives of expatriate businessmen in Singapore and Japan in the early part of the 19th century were interesting and included current affairs of the time and the social glue of isolated families; tiffin, shopping, and liberal amounts of alcohol.
In searching for a purpose to her life, Emma reaches out for learning and understanding, to her closest local contacts, her housekeepers. Despite language barriers and differing cultural backgrounds, the women make important connections.
We also witness some of the external pressures of the expat family nucleus in each country as well: from racism and civil unrest to the impact of poor hygiene and disease on the local population. Even when Emma moves back to America and then England, her struggle for independence skirts the single biggest hurdle of her life: racism.
Blackthorn writes with a sensitive hand, sharing Emma’s attempts at managing her unhappy marriage, boredom, the growing schism between herself and her German family. The writing style is clever, never over emotional, never one-dimensional. All the characters are fleshed out with a flair one comes to expect with a Blackthorn novel.
About the Author
Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and historical fiction. On the dark side are Twerk,The Cabin Sessions and The Legacy of Old Gran Parks. Her Canary Islands’ collection begins with The Drago Tree and includes A Matter of Latitude, Clarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the Sun. Her interest in the occult is explored in The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey and the dark mystery A Perfect Square. The esoteric theme pervades much of her writing. Isobel is currently at work on a new mystery series, her sixth Canary Islands’ novel and a dark esoteric mystery.
Title: Emma's Tapestry
Author: Isobel Blackthorn
Purchase link: mybook.to/emmastapestry
Genre: Historical fiction
Print length: 311 pages
Age range: This is an adult book but suitable for mature teens
Trigger warnings: None;
Amazon Rating: 5 About Emma’s Tapestry
A Blackthorn Book Tours review.
I received a free copy of this novel with a request for an honest review.
This review will also appear on Amazon (Australia) and Goodreads.