ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – The Ragged Valley by Joanne Clague

The Ragged Valley by Joanne Clague is published by Canelo and available now in paperback, ebook and audiobook. The book is my own purchase.

From the wreckage, they must piece together new lives for themselves…

Determined not to waste his life toiling for his cruel brother, Silas, the second son of a farmer, arrives in town to seek his fortune. Harriet has reconciled herself to a life no better than domestic service for her austere uncle. And John Gunson, Chief Engineer at the Sheffield Waterworks Company, has just completed his crowning glory – the Dale Dyke dam.

But one stormy night, the unthinkable happens. The dam bursts. A wall of water is unleashed, destroying everything in its path.

The aftershocks of the flood reach far beyond that night, with consequences that could never have been foreseen. Fatefully brought together, Silas and Harriet must now contend with their families as new love blooms. Meanwhile, Gunson faces not only an angry community but also a court of inquest looking for a scapegoat.

Can any good come from the disaster, and will justice be served for those who lost everything?

A thrilling saga inspired by the real events of the Great Sheffield Flood, perfect for fans of Dilly Court, Emma Hornby and Elisabeth McNeill.

As a born and bred Sheffielder, the Great Flood of 1864 is something I’ve heard of but, as the author mentions in her note at the back of this book, despite the fact that it killed over 240 people and flattened whole areas, it isn’t all that well known a part of history. The Ragged Valley really brought it to life for me, the sound of the seven hundred million gallons of water thundering through the countryside into the town below sounding all too real in my head.

The book focuses on three main characters: Silas, a young man who has just arrived in Sheffield looking for a new life working in the steelworks; Harriet, a young woman who lives with her aunt and uncle providing unpaid help around the house and with their children; and John Gunson, the engineer who supervised construction of the dam that burst and who it seems is destined to be the scapegoat of the disaster. The story brings the three characters together gradually, and in Silas and Harriet’s case, spectacularly.

I enjoyed The Ragged Valley very much. It gave me a sense of the horror of the flood when so many people were either washed away or lost loved ones, and many lost everything they owned. It must have been a horrific and heartbreaking time for all concerned and it was interesting to see how the aftermath was dealt with and the resilience of folk who had no choice but to just carry on as best they could. Joanne Clague’s writing is engaging and empathetic and I very much liked the plot and characters she created. I had a particular soft spot for impetuous and affable Silas and his collie dog, Shandy.

I’m looking forward to reading book two of The Sheffield Sagas trilogy next. Those who love historical and saga fiction will find much to enjoy in The Ragged Valley.

Born and raised in Sheffield, Joanne lives in the coastal village of Laxey in the Isle of Man with her husband, children, dogs and other assorted wildlife. She has worked in print, radio and broadcast journalism in the north west for the past three decades and is now a full-time writer of historical fiction set in nineteenth century Sheffield.

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