Book Review: ‘Until We Win’ by Linda Newbery

Author: Linda Newbery

Originally Published by Barrington Stoke in 2017

Review by Miriam Atkinson

Until We Win is a fictional story about one girl’s journey from a quiet office clerk to standing up to her family and peers and joining the Suffragette movement.

A surprising short book for the amount of story it contains, Until We Win is aimed at younger readers and I believe it would make an excellent teaching tool to guide children into an important part of British history. The text on the page is deliberately spaced to provide an accessible reading experience for all readers. I found the plot easy to follow and believable. Linda Newbery uses protagonist Lizzy to show the different types of trials women at that time faced; from being treated as second-class citizens at home and by members of society, to the empowerment they felt at rallies and being inspired by the speeches and actions of other like-minded women, to the hardships of prison and self-imposed hunger strikes.

Until We Win does well to show that life at the time was not as straightforward as women against men as readers might believe. Lizzy’s manager Mr Dawes is supportive about her progression through the firm. The husband of fellow suffragette Julia readily takes Lizzy in after her time in prison and nurses the women back to health after their hunger strikes. In contrast Lizzy’s greatest conflict is with her mother who is horrified by her involvement with the movement, believing a woman should know her place and tries to exile Lizzy from the family. The biggest character arc after Lizzy’s is her brother Ted. Initially arrogant and oppressive towards his sister at the beginning of the book, Ted is forced to admit his imperfections when his antics leave a horse lame. At the start of the First World War Ted and Lizzy finally reconcile upon realising how much they have both changed from their parents’ expectations.

The book cover is a photograph of a piece of embroidery created by Stewart Easton specifically for Until We Win. The title is placed in the centre like a slogan and the whole piece is bordered with purple, white and green lines (the suffragette colours). In Easton’s own words the border “was to be bold and with straight lines to highlight the unwavering strength of the Suffragettes”. The image of the wings represents freedom and the flowers are a symbol for both femininity and the strength that comes from growth, patience and endurance. Put together the front cover deliberately echoes the banners and flags used by Suffragettes at the time during their marches.

An excellent insight into the Suffragette world, Until We Win manages to incorporate so many aspects of Lizzie’s journey into a short book without feeling rushed or forced.

This review was originally published in the online magazine Cuckoo Review in April 2017

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