Literature professor Alison Huntingford recently released her first novel The Glass Bulldog, seeing Exeter in Devon with eyes from the past as far back as the 19th century. This novel follows protagonist Tom Finnimore, a down-on-his-luck fellow who has had to deal with miserable circumstances after another. The story is set in the year 1833, with Huntington offering a unique and nostalgic glimpse of what the town of Exeter would be like at the time.
This period in time was marked by creation and industrialisation. However, life for ordinary folks was simplistic at best but also marked by hard labor, low wages, crude living situations, and unsanitary conditions. Such deplorable plights made sickness prevalent, and the cholera that hit England at the time did not escape Tom’s little sister, Annie.
The epidemic that claimed Annie’s life devastated Tom so deeply that his ability to work was affected and he struggled with a hateful job and the poverty that he had to endure.
Tom’s life was not all misery for he found sweet albeit short happiness in love. His happiness is short-lived; out of desperation at his situation, he turns to stealing but ends up getting caught. This one-time folly lands him in jail and scarred from the trauma of serving time.
Love gets the better of him once more, having found it in the beautiful Mary Ann. It doesn’t last, and Tom is left broken-hearted once more. Another chance at happiness finds him in the person of widow Phyllis, but their love and union are threatened when her family discovers he is an ex-convict.
Readers of The Glass Bulldog have been held captive. Will our hero Tom ever find redemption?
And so goes this Huntingford book. The author herself has revealed that the character, Tom, was inspired by an ancestor from Exeter. This relative was discovered from looking up her genealogy, a favorite pastime of hers. Having grown up in Devon herself, the author was delighted to come across his story, paving the way for the creation of ordinary Tom Finnimore battling life’s challenges.
To quote Huntingford, “I feel the lives of ordinary people can be just as sad, funny, dramatic, and interesting as anyone famous.”
The Glass Bulldog by Alison Huntingford is published by Austin Macauley Publishers in paperback, retailing at bookstores for £9.99.