I love reading historical fiction novels as a general rule, and especially when the story teaches me about something in history that I never knew before. That is the reason I’m very glad I was able to read The Brideship Wife by Leslie Howard.
This book chronicles the lives of a group of young women who left England in the early 1860s to travel halfway around the world to Vancouver Island. All of these women were encouraged to travel to help settle the region by becoming wives of gold miners and other men who had moved to the area. For the women, it was a chance to make a better life for themselves as well, since most were either impoverished gentlewomen or working class women from the mills and factories with little chance to live decent lives in their homeland.
In this novel we see the story through the eyes of one of the gentlewomen forced by circumstances in her life to join the ship headed for Victoria, Vancouver Island in 1862. It is a harrowing trip for her and the other women she meets on this journey, full of hardship and sorrow, but also friendship, hope, and love.
This is Ms. Howard’s debut novel, and it is a very good beginning for her writing career. She did an excellent job researching the facts and incorporating them into the story. Many of the events that happened to the characters in this novel actually happened to the real brideship wives. The story is well written and does a wonderful job of letting us see what these courageous ladies went through to try to improve their lives. The characters are well developed, and easy to connect with. I became invested in these characters as I read about all they went through.
This is not a historical romance, though there was some romance in the story. This is a story that demonstrates how far we as humans will go to make a better life for ourselves; a story of the resilience of the human spirit.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Brideship Wife, and I think you will enjoy it as well.
I received an ARC from NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for an honest review.