What’s A Mighty Horde Of Women In Very Big Hats, Advancing all about?:
In the final story of this collection we learn what became of Sophie Rackham through the memories of her son who is speaking to us from the 1990’s at the grand old age of 92.
What did I think?:
For the final story in Michel Faber’s collection, I was expecting something stupendous as I was such a big fan of his novel The Crimson Petal And The White. In the Apple, Faber takes the characters from his ground-breaking novel and gives us an eye-opening tidbit into their lives post The Crimson Petal. I was so pleased that he chose the last story to give us an idea of what happened to Sophie Rackham after her extraordinary adventures with Sugar – I’m wary of spoiling things for people who haven’t read the novel so I won’t mention much more about what actually happened and generally speaking, I loved what I read but it left me hungry for a bit more.
My favourite part of the story was probably the first half. It opens with a man recalling his childhood with his mother, Sophie and I found it incredibly engaging and in points, frankly hilarious. Henry has spent much of his early childhood with his parents in Australia and has only recently at the age of seven, moved back to England where he was surprised to discover that this is where his parents real home is. He notes that it wasn’t especially easy fitting in at his new school due to the strong characters of his parents and their living situation which they share with an “Aunt” Primrose. She is no relation to the family but has been living with them as long as he can remember and is what the children in his class claim as unnatural, mainly due to the manner of her dress which is quite “manly,” in appearance and certainly not conforming to the fashions of the time (1908).
All three parental figures to Henry are such interesting characters and strident believers in suffrage and Votes For Women. The main crux of the story focuses on a famous Suffragette March in that year, which Henry is delighted to be a part of. Things don’t exactly go according to plan on the big day however, and it is the events at the march and certain things he has picked up in intimate conversations with his mother that makes Henry realise that his childhood was such an innocent time. He is only now starting to discover that the adult world is far more complex, and the adults he knows far more fallible than he ever could have believed.
As I mentioned, I really enjoyed the earlier parts of this story especially learning about Henry’s family in the events preceding the famous march. That’s not to say I didn’t like the second half – I loved how Faber empowered women and there were many bitter-sweet moments as Sophie Rackham tentatively explored her early life again before becoming overcome by the whole process. I just felt as if there should have been more information about Sophie’s childhood after the events of The Crimson Petal which was only gently and very teasingly touched upon. Of course, I would have loved to hear about Sugar also and what happened to her but she remains quite a distant, ghostly figure in this narrative. Saying that, The Apple is a great collection of stories for fans of the novel which heighten the whole reading experience and quite frankly, made me desperate for a follow-up!
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Mean Time by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone).