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 Suffrage movement.
A surprisingly 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 through an important part of British history. The text on the page is deliberately spaced to provide an accessible reading experience for all. 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. From 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 a good job of showing that life at the time was not as straightforward as simply ‘women against men’. Lizzy’s manager Mr Dawes is supportive of her progression through the firm. The husband of fellow Suffragette Julia readily takes Lizzy in when she needs to be 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 that a woman should know her place. The biggest character arc after Lizzy’s is her brother, Ted. Initially arrogant and oppressive towards his sister, dramatic events eventually force Ted to consider his imperfections.
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. Collaboratively, the front cover deliberately echoes the banners and flags used by Suffragettes during their marches at the time.
An excellent insight into the Suffragette world, Until We Win manages to incorporate many aspects of Lizzie’s journey into a short book, without feeling rushed or forced.