The Word For Freedom: Short stories celebrating women's suffrage and raising money for Hestia. Edited by Amanda Saint and Rose McGinty #BookReview #BlogTour

A collection of 24 short stories celebrating a hundred years of women’ suffrage, from both established and emerging authors, all of whom have been inspired by the suffragettes and whose stories, whether set in 1918, the current day or the future, focus on the same freedoms that those women fought for so courageously.
A clerk of works at the Palace of Westminster encounters Emily Davison in a broom cupboard; a mermaid dares to tread on land to please the man she loves; a school girl friendship makes the suffragette protests relevant to the modern day; a mother leaves her child for a tree; an online troll has to face his target; and a woman caught in modern day slavery discovers a chance for freedom in a newspaper cutting.

These stories and many more come together in a collection that doesn’t shy away from the reality of a woman’s world, which has injustices and inequalities alongside opportunities and hard-won freedoms, but always finds strength, bravery and hope.

Through this anthology Retreat West Books is proud to support Hestia and the UK Says No More campaign against domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Authors that have donated stories include:

    • Sophie Duffy, author of The Generation Game; 
    • Angela Readman, Costa Short Story Award winner;
    • Anna Mazzola, author of The Story Keepers and winner of the Edgar Allen Poe award;
    • Isabel Costello, author of Paris, Mon Amour and host of The Literary Sofa blog;
    • Angela Clarke, best-selling author of the Social Media Murders series;
    • Karen Hamilton, author of The Perfect Girlfriend;
    • Helen Irene Young, author of The May Queen; 
    • Victoria Richards, journalist and award-winning short story writer; and
    • Cath Bore, feminist short story writer and broadcaster.  

I'm so honoured to be taking part in the blog tour for The Word for Freedom today. My grateful thanks to Retreat West and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the book.

The Word For Freedom is a collection of short stories inspired by the suffragette movement. This year marks the 100th anniversary of (some) women finally being given the vote in the UK but although this is a book about the strength, dignity and fortitude of women, it isn't an anthology of suffragette stories, although a few here are set at the time when women were still campaigning to be given the vote. All the stories are linked due to their main characters being women or young girls but are set in various places; whether real or imagined and take place in the past, present or future. They each feature women seeking freedom but this common thread is explored in many different ways.
Some of the authors have written wryly humorous tales of revenge, albeit often with a dark edge to them. In Enid Is Going On A Journey by David Cook, Enid is taking a road trip even though she knows her husband, Steven will be furious. The first thing she does is to discard his CD of brass band classics and then plays Dusty Springfield on the radio. She might not be headed to Tulsa just yet but Bournemouth and the sea await her. In Out Of Office by Emily Kerr, Jenny Smythe sends an email after being accidentally sent a message intended for her male colleague which opens her eyes to the full facts about the inequality in her workplace. Retribution takes on a much darker form in Gristle by Angela Clark and though the punishment may be harsh, I must admit that the black humour here made this one of my favourite stories in the book.
Other stories were more heartrending, perhaps none more so than Sayyida Nanda by Katherine Blessan which is a disturbing retelling of the Cinderella story. Set in Pakistan, Sayyida's life is far from a fairytale and the truth of what has been done to this young girl is terribly upsetting. Her visions of escape may be just a dream but she finds the way to keep hope alive. Lucy's husband and her father have both cruelly failed her in Those Who Trespass Against Us but now she is just waiting for the right moment to change things. In Anna Mazzola's The Silent Woman, modern slavery is given a human face as a woman realises the truth about her situation and knows that at some point she will be ready to scream.
Stories such as Not Our Kind Of Girl by Anne Hamilton and Relevant by Anna Orridge focus on girls and young women and how they may be inspired by the work of others or driven to act by the situations they witness. Their stories may be different but both Mari and Ginny have seen enough to make them want to change the world. Others are about older women who have perhaps spent years accepting their situation but now enough is enough. A safari trip is the catalyst for the protagonist in Isabel Costello's The Word For Freedom whereas a visit to town helps Betty see things more clearly in Myopia by Sophie Duffy. A book inspired by the suffragettes wouldn't be complete without some stories about them; in Counting For England by Christine Powell, Percy, a young clerk of works at the Palace of Westminster spends a life-changing few minutes with Emily Davison and in One Woman, One Vote by Sallie Anderson, Mary is accompanied to the polling station by her overbearing and pompous husband, William as women are finally given the right to vote. Will she follow his orders and vote for the Labour candidate, John Davison - or will she put her cross next to Christabel Pankhurst's name?
I flew through The Word For Freedom, each story is an engaging, thought-provoking and inspiring message about the strength and fortitude of women who somehow manage to keep striving for justice and equality even when things seem almost impossible. It's hard to pick out favourites when the quality is so consistently high but some particularly stood out for me. Cover Their Bright Faces by Abigail Rowe is a bittersweet tale about love as Matty and her girlfriend, Linda learn about the secret her Aunt Portia was forced to keep years ago. There are parts of this story that are almost unbearably sad as we realise that although Portia came alive when she was with Lucy, the time they had to together was all too brief. It's such an emotional story which finishes with an uplifting message of hope that things have changed and will continue to do so. I loved the characters and the touching story about loss, survival and hope in Tiny Valentines by Angela Readman. The initially strained relationship between the prim and proper Elsie and the flighty, Florrie develops as the older woman begins to let down her guard as she learns more about her younger counterpart and I finished it with a tear in my eye. The final story in the book, Brick by Rachel Rivett revisits the suffragette movement once more and is a stirring paean to the power and determination of women through the ages right up to the present day and for as long as necessary. It's the perfect ending to this superb anthology; The Word For Freedom is a fitting tribute to the suffragettes and a celebration of women everywhere. I highly recommend it.

The Word For Freedom will be published on 1st November 2018 and can be pre-ordered as a paperback or ebook from Amazon.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Publishers
Retreat West Books is an independent press publishing paperback books and ebooks.
Founder, Amanda Saint, is a novelist and short story writer. She’s also a features journalist writing about environmental sustainability and climate change. So all Retreat West Books publications take advantage of digital technology advances and are print-on-demand, in order to make best use of the world’s finite resources.
Retreat West Books is an arm of Amanda’s creative writing business, Retreat West, through which she runs fiction writing retreats, courses and competitions and provides editorial services.
Initially started to publish the anthologies of winning stories in the Retreat West competitions, Retreat West Books is now open for submissions for short story collections, novels and memoirs. Submission info can be found here.
You can follow Amanda Saint @saintlywriter and Retreat West Books @RetreatWest on Twitter.



  1. Huge thanks for this Karen x

  2. Hello, I found this article accidentally, as I am running a book club and want to put as a topic for September a short story dealing with Suffragettes and the centennial anniversary of the right to vote for women. Which one (or two) would you recommend from this collection? Something uplifting :)

    1. Hi Martina, if you're after a story that deals directly with the Suffragette Movement then I think I'd recommend One Woman, One Vote by Sallie Anderson. I also really enjoyed Brick by Rachel Rivett, although I'd probably describe it as empowering rather than uplifting.
      If you'd like a more contemporary story inspired by the Suffragettes, I'd go for Relevant by Anna Orridge.
      Hope this helps!

    2. Thank you very much for your reply, Karen :) and besides this book, is there anything remarkable (and short as it needs to be easily accessible for the attendants) than we can discuss regarding this topic? I am afraid not everyone will be able to get to this book. Thank you, Martina


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