Review of ‘Tales of The Peak’, by Freda Bowman

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 17th July 2006, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Freda Bowman
Printed by Northend of Sheffield
ISBN 0-901100-66-8 (2006)

When local writers Freda Bowman and Bob Brill worked together on their recent 'Brill Walks' walking guides, Freda threw in a special bonus. To add interest to the walks she wrote accompanying tales relevant to the history of the area, an innovative idea which has now taken on a life of its own.

Reviewers were full of praise for the merging of historical accuracy with imaginative storytelling. Says Freda: 'The stories were so well received that I was persuaded to write two new longer ones and put them into a single volume, so that non-walkers could enjoy them too!'

Displaying a rare feel for the past, she has brought together ten tales, each told by a different character, not all of them fictional and not all likeable. The wife of a wealthy gentleman taking a 19th-century water cure keeps herself occupied with a little flirting whilst he soaks in wet sheets and mustard poultices; 'the woman who never was' reminisces by the grave of a lover who deserted her to secure his inheritance and its 3,000-acre estate; an Ashford marble worker compares his fashionable craft to the life of a lead miner, having watched his own father slowly die from lead poisoning. A different chain of thought then turns to practical ways of teaching the young ones about the birds and the bees.

Each tale is followed by historical notes explaining the background reality. Freda herself seems to have been spirited back in time to get under the skin of characters who know such things as the wonder of getting from Sheffield to Manchester in a single day, set against the harsh fact of horses worked to death; a navvy's wife recalls the horse-drawn fish and chip cart that used to visit a shanty town living under the shadow of smallpox; ands from higher up the social scale comes the sad reflective voice of the son who inherited unimaginable wealth from a cold-hearted textile baron.

Freda Bowman might imagine that she has temporarily moved away from walking guides but, conversely, these stories are bound to send readers out on location, up hill and down dale.

Printed by Northend of Sheffield and illustrated with photographs, portraits and landscape sketches.

Review by Julie Bunting

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