Verdict: EMMY NATION offers a fast-paced fictional framework for recalling the early, difficult days of the women’s movement.
Harking back to the era when voting rights for women were still a faraway dream, EMMY NATION focuses on one young woman’s personal quandary: to spy on the women’s movement…or join it.
In London in 1913, certain activists in the struggle for women’s suffrage, led by the Pankhurst family, give up on nonviolent strategies and turn to militancy. When they embark on tactics like marches and bombings, Emmy Nation, a humble police typist, is drafted into service as an undercover agent. She’s given a small raise in pay and some better clothing to replace her one brown suit, and ordered to join the Women’s Social and Political Union, name names and inform police of upcoming actions. Emmy will be shadowed and protected by Colin, a police officer who secretly fancies her, and supervised by Cliff, who once courted her without success and knows a bit too much about her past.
First time author Munro deftly draws the reader into Emmy’s personal dilemmas—how to handle Colin’s friendly but persistent interest and ignore Clive’s rancor. But at the same time, and as importantly, Munro brings the issues to life. Through Emmy’s eyes, we gain increasing admiration for these early feminists, bearing insult, imprisonment, and social disgrace to further the cause of women’s suffrage for future generations. The plot heats up as the eponymous heroine alters from observer to sympathizer.
It’s sometimes difficult to make historical fact fit a good tale, and Munro has, by her own admission, taken creative liberties with certain of the historical incidents conveyed in her novel. But by highlighting the deeds of the suffragettes and recreating the flavor of those dramatic times, she offers a well-deserved homage. And though a few too many sudden, remarkable coincidences push the plot along, Munro has in the main crafted a corking good story; Emmy’s role as an undercover feminist begs a sequel.
EMMY NATION offers a fast-paced fictional framework for recalling the early, difficult days of the women’s movement.