This book is the first volume in The Century Trilogy. I’d already read The Glassblower Trilogy and wondered what new theme Petra Durst-Benning would have come up with. The answer? Bicycles! Yet again the protagonists are three young women, this time town girls living in Berlin in the 1890s. Jo, the main character, is the daughter of a brutal blacksmith who forces her to work long hours for him without pay. Pretty Isabelle is the spoilt daughter of rich, social climbing parents whose chief ambition in life is to marry her off. The trio is completed by Clara, daughter of a pharmacist. Her dream is to be one of the first women studying pharmacology at university.
What do the three girls have in common? First, a desire not to be nice young ladies ending up as Hausfraus. Second, a love of cycling. When Jo discovers cycling she finds a freedom she’s never experienced before. Women cyclists (or cyclers, as they are rather strangely called throughout the book) are despised, spat at in the street, denounced as unfeminine, warned of the dangers to their health. So the bicycle becomes a metaphor for women’s struggle for independence and we follow the three through their determination to ride with the same rights as men, while at the same time looking for love.
This story didn’t grab me the way the Glassblower books did, perhaps because glass blowing is more interesting than cycling. Nevertheless I was interested in the characters and their stories and will probably follow them through the next two books. This is an AmazonCrossing book and was available to ‘Read Now’ on NetGalley.