What Readers are saying about Diary of a Lacemaker
“I read historical fiction to learn something of a particular time and place without having to do the slogging research myself. How much more luxurious to learn through a novel, with perhaps a bit of romance, what life might have been like on a wine plantation in South Africa in the mid-eighteenth century. Sukey Hughes has done this for us beautifully with her new book, Diary of a Lacemaker. Not only is it a delicious read, but it is also a stirring glimpse into the quasi-caste system of the time. In some ways the story works as a kind of “Upstairs/Downstairs” tale. The slaves and servants, and their owners/employers live entangled lives.
Our heroine, Saskia, arrives with the mistress of the plantation and her children from Amsterdam, as no better than an indentured servant. When the mistress finds out that she is a lacemaker, and therefore a money maker, she is further enmeshed in the Big House. She befriends the slaves and the other servants. A nanny, she is able to move between the two worlds but belongs to neither. As an outsider, she is able to see most clearly the social, political, and emotional inequities of her surroundings. Much the way Anne Perry does for the Victorian era, Hughes takes us behind the facade of the times to the lives of the people who are suffering while others posture. Her research was phenomenal. I felt enmeshed in the color, flavor, noise, smells, and language of the different settings of the book. And as for that love story, you will have to read Diary of a Lacemaker for yourself.”
– Ariadne Weaver, Ph.D. in Cultural History, U. of Chicago
“Hughes’s young Dutch lacemaker, Saskia, takes us on an enticing, moving, frightening journey to her new life in South Africa in the 1740s. Looking for a new experience, she accepts a post as a childminder-cum-servant of a wealthy winemaking family, but then … well, read the book! Saskia’s interactions with people of diverse ethnicities, social standings and backgrounds make for a thrilling ride through life.
On each page I find myself marvelling at the beautifully crafted writing. I was particularly taken by the author’s imaginative similes and metaphors. She’s obviously done her research too, as attested by the convincing detail and imagery. If you’ve never visited 18th-century South Africa, this book will make you think that you have.”
– Dr. David Barnes-Hughes
“Historical fiction can be so awesome or awfully disappointing. Having been disappointed more than once lately (cloying heroines, little sense of historical context …) I had retreated to nonfiction. That’s why I’m so glad my best friend gave me Diary of a Lacemaker! I stayed up late each night to read it through, savoring every delicious detail. Don’t you love it when a book or movie just sweeps you off your feet like that?
I don’t want to give the story away. I’ll just say that the characters are real to me now, like friends you’ve known and loved for some time, and a place and time once foreign is suddenly alive with rich detail. Give yourself the gift of Diary of a Lacemaker. And give one to your best friend too.”
– Theresa Laursen, James Beard Award-nominated author
“I was totally absorbed and amazed by the details and passion of the time, place, and characters. The skillful writing put me in a time and place I had no way of knowing without Sukey Hughes’ artful crafting. This is a powerful novel of important historical and universal themes. I am grateful that I had the experience of reading this novel, not an easy read, but a deepening understanding of the necessity of following one’s destiny.”
– Dorothy Jardin, creative writing teacher, poet, author Light’s River
“Diary of a Lacemaker by Sukey Hughes is a deeply emotional novel that delivers Saskia Klaassens and the readers onto the shores of Dutch-ruled South Africa in 1749. She has known only a hard life in Holland and what unfolds here, with great grace and beauty, is a girl becoming a woman, learning life in a beautiful and dangerous land of owners and slaves, and keeping the secret at the center of her heart. She is a lacemaker – for the love of it, for the magic in her hands, guarding this from people who would use it for their own gain. Saskia moves into your heart in the first paragraph and lives there still when the book ends.”
-Gerald DiPego, author of five novels, including Cheevey, and the films Phenomenon, Message in a Bottle, Words and Pictures, and many others.
“Sukey Hughes takes us on an historical trip in which life for all members of society is inescapable–except for the heroine who, despite incredible danger, follows her heart–despite the price. You don’t want to miss this eloquent, elegant adventure into the past–and you won’t forget it or the elegant and opulent word painting of the author who spares herself nothing so that we can BE THERE!”
– Zoe Keithley, novelist, The Calling of Mother Adelli; Of Fire of Water of Stone: Jophile’s Story
GF Peyrat –
A perfect blend of Fiction, Fact and Romance
Although I normally read mainly nonfiction books, I found this novel captured my interest very quickly and kept me totally absorbed in the life of Saskia and the plantation, with its skillful blending of historical fact, fiction, romance and pervading sense of social injustice. There is a lot to learn in this novel, from the skill of lace making, to the Dutch rule in South Africa, as well as wine plantation life and the social inequities suffered by servants like Saskia and the brutal treatment of the black slaves. Through use of Saskia’s writing a journal, we get more insight into events and her emotional reactions. I especially like the dialogue and sprinkling of Dutch/South African words (and the fact that there is a glossary at the end of the book–something I really appreciate and wish more books had). The authenticity of descriptions is apparent, from the language, to description of clothing, to the meals, dwellings, and customs. The romance between Saskia and Titus adds the Romeo-Juliet element that captures the reader’s emotional reaction. I highly recommend this book!
Julie Barrett –
DIARY OF A LACEMAKER: SUKEY HUGHES
Starts out with praise from others. Dedication pages and quotes.
1749 Story begins with the family arriving in South Africa where the mother meets up with her spouse who they’ve not seen in a year.
The whole family is there and Miss Klaassens was tending to the children. She’s not to speak out or question the Mistress at any time they are in the public.
Saskia is to be an assistant nurse. She is shocked at all the very deep black skinned people.
She had been lied to about the position and told she was too young to have a contract with them.
Love how strong of a woman she is to ask the master about a room of her own. Love how she collects furniture she can use and make it livable.
Love haring how she does the lace making of items. She has a love for her work.
Mistress wants more pretty things, lace, so she talks her husband into having Saskia take classes in town, Titus will bring her there, wait til her leson is over then bring her back to do her chores.
She no longer has to do work that will harm her fingers. They will sell her works and keep the profit. Dutch lace is a lot different than what she sees the woman perform but she takes it on and accomplishes much.
I am a visual learner and glad to know Saskia just has to look at the finished product and she can replicate it, just like me!
They have a thing for one another but they realize they must make others think it’s over or they could be in deep trouble.
One person does something to put others in danger and they are taken care of, brutally.
Love hidden gems in this story, the laces, the waterfalls and excursions to new places where they discover new things.
Love aunt Effie and for her talents and understanding. Heartbreaking when you hear about those who died…
Shocking at the end what happens to the family, didn’t see that coming.
There are quotes that start out the chapters along with dates they relate to. Love learning of customs, traditions events, holidays, worship, travel, people, relationships, meetings, land owners and so much more.
end of the book: author requests a review, free sign up for newsletter, Glossary of words and phrases, research author did, and acknowledgements.
One of my top picks for this month!
I received this review copy from the publisher and this is my honest opinion.