Hello and welcome to Joyful Antidotes, a historical fiction book review site. No, no, just kidding. All book genres are welcome here but I have been recently reviewing a lot of historical fiction. It’s just that there are so many great books in this genre out there. Including this one.
The Caseroom* by Kate Hunter is set in Edinburgh and follows Iza as she learns a highly-skilled publishing trade in the caseroom. Iza is working during a time with fierce hostility towards the cheap labour that women are perceived to represent. We follow Iza as she persists to show her value within the trade and finally see her torn between class and gender loyalties when the men’s union moves to eliminate women from the caseroom.
I want to be perfectly honest here and write that at the beginning of the book, I thought that The Caseroom would be somewhat of a boring read. You see, I’ve been reading a lot of police crime lately and this was a big turnaround. The story is very descriptive and it goes into a lot of (well-researched) detail. Also, while there are quite a few characters in this book, The Caseroom doesn’t delve deeply into the different relationships. Except perhaps the relationship between Iza and her younger brother William, a relationship I felt was beautifully written.
Then I reached the second part of the book and my opinion was completely swung. The Caseroom is not simply a story of strikes, unfair working conditions and women in the workplace. What it is is a story that made me proud to be a woman. Yes, this might be a fictional story but it reflects the hardships our female predecessors went through and how much they fought to bring equality for women in the workplace. Unfortunately, this battle is still not over but they paved the way for much better things for us.
Iza is such a strong character. She is a woman who fought her way into a once male-dominated profession and then refused to give up her job as she started to build her family, contrary to the expectations of the time. Characters like Iza are the types of characters I love and therefore books like The Caseroom are the types of books I encourage people to read wholeheartedly.
One other thought about The Caseroom is that it is written very much in Scotish dialect. Admittedly, there were some phrases/expressions I wasn’t familiar with at all but the more I read the fewer problems I had understanding what was going on. When you are not used to a certain way of speaking it can be a bit off-putting at first but I believe the local dialect just enhances the story you build in your head.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. If you are interested in historical fiction and specifically women’s rights, The Caseroom will be a great read for you.
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.