June 2023 – The Low Road (Unbound Publishing)
REVIEWS FOR THE LOW ROAD:
Historical novelist Katherine Mezzacappa, for the Historical Novel Society, said:
“Quarmby gives a lyrical description of the Norfolk landscape, stained though by the suffering of destitute families sent to the workhouse, maimed men returning from Spain and the lingering fear of witches. Threshing machines are destroyed by men fearful of losing their livelihood; protesters are hanged.
The Low Road is a tough read, paradoxically, because of the empathy with which Quarmby tells her story; tougher, too, because it is based on true events. Hannah’s trajectory in life is almost inevitable. She accelerates it by pilfering, but the reasons for her thefts are pitifully human. Sent to a refuge in London, she meets Annie, who is to be the love of her life, but both of them end up in a nightmarish Newgate prison, leavened only by the presence of Elizabeth Fry. The ultimate destination for the two women, though separately, is transportation, to an Australia as lush in colour and birdsong as London was bleak.”
Novelist Maggie Gee said: “A darkly gripping picaresque tale of cruelty, courage and kindness as an orphaned girl survives poverty and injustice to seek love on the other side of the world.”
Novelist Jane Harris said: “Quarmby spins an absorbing, tender and brutal tale that encompasses a London refuge for the destitute, rural Norfolk, and Van Diemen’s Land in Australia. This is a novel about love, betrayal, destitution and redemption. A heart-rending story, impeccably researched, packed with rich and realistic detail, and reminiscent of the work of Charlotte Brontë and Sarah Waters.”
Novelist Lydia Syson wrote: “Quarmby unites sympathetic examination of a fragmentary historical record with imaginative reconstruction to give a voice to a girl who endured the gravest injustice and misfortune over two centuries ago. Ever evocative of time and place, The Low Road reads compellingly as an act of love and restitution.”
Romantic novelist Michelle Styles said: “Vibrant… Quarmby immerses the reader into the early nineteenth century with this page-turning tale of forbidden passion and a woman’s ultimate triumph over adversity. A traditional saga, harking back to the glory days of Catherine Cookson, but with a very modern twist which is sure to appeal to today’s reader. I look forward to reading more of her work”.
ABOUT THE LOW ROAD
The Low Road is set in rural England, London and Australia in the early nineteenth century. It is based on a true story I found whilst visiting my parents in the quiet Waveney Valley of a Norfolk woman, Mary Tyrell, who was staked through the heart after death in 1813. She had been questioned repeatedly about a suspected infanticide.
An older daughter, known only by the initials A.T., had survived. I traced her to the Refuge for the Destitute in Hackney. She had met another destitute, Anne Simpkins, there and they forged a friendship that deepened into love. In December 1821 they stole laundry from the Refuge, but were caught, stood trial at the Old Bailey, and were sentenced to transportation. They went first to the Millbank Penitentiary, survived marsh fever and were transferred to the prison hulks before being pardoned in 1824. They then went ‘on the town’ as prostitute. They both disappeared from the records – with just one last archive entry suggesting they were transported. The trail went cold so I decided to novelise their story but base it on a mosaic of the lives of men and women who were exiled in the largest forced migration in British history.
This novel is about uncovering lost histories: the stories of poor women from rural areas, the stories of the imprisoned, the stories of convicts sent to penal colonies, the stories of people who often left no records as a result of illiteracy and hardship. It also contains an important strand of narrative that explores experiences left out of the history books: a same-sex romance that evolves into a marriage of sorts two centuries before this was legally possible.
2024: Hachette Publishing (book for primary age children, celebrating disability rights
2024: Badger Publishing (six book series on bullying, aimed at children and young people at secondary school)
Yokki and the Parno Gry, (Child’s Play International, with Richard O’Neill, 2016)
Ossiri and the Bala Mengro, (Child’s Play International, with Richard O’Neill, 2016)
Subject: two picture books from the English Traveller tradition, reviews on the book review page. Ossiri and the Bala Mengro was shortlisted for the 2016 Little Rebels Award.
A Country of Refuge (chapter), ed Lucy Popescu, (Unbound, 2016)
Subject: chapter about how my mother and grandmother came to the UK from war-time Yugoslavia, with the support of the Red Cross.
Hear My Cry (Hachette Poland, with Diana Kader, 2015)
Subject: my first ghost-writing book, on ‘honour’ based violence, co-written with survivor, Diana Kader.
The Priest, the Assassin and Archduke Franz Ferdinand (Kindle/Thistle Single, 2014)
Subject: semi-fictionalised account of my Serbian great-grandfather’s relationship with the assassin, Gavrilo Princip.
Romani Pilgrims: Europe’s New Moral Force (Newsweek Insights Publishing, via Kindle, 2014)
Subject: long-form reportage on the Romanies and Evangelical Christianity, with exclusive access to the communities.
Aftermath, (Kindle Single, 2013)
Subject: short fiction on the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide.
No Place to Call Home: Inside the Real Lives of Gypsies and Travellers (One World, 22nd August 2013).
Subject: inside account of the eviction of the settlement, Dale Farm, and the prejudice faced by Romanies, Roma and Travellers. More information here: http://www.oneworld-publications.com/books/no-place-to-call-home- 22nd August 2013 (One World Publications) Shortlisted for the 2013 Bread and Roses non-fiction award.
Blood and Water (Kindle Single, 2013)
Subject: an e-book about adoption and my own decades-long search for my Iranian birth father.
More information here by clicking this link.2012:
Disability, Hate Crime and Violence – An Edited Collection, (Routledge, 2012), “Language and the Media portrayal of Disability Hate Crime”, Katharine Quarmby), editors Alan Roulstone and Hannah Mason-Bish
Subject: analytical chapter using a contents analysis approach towards the media portrayal of disabled people in the UK.
Scapegoat: Why We are Failing Disabled People (Portobello Press, 2011)
Subject: the first British investigative book about disability hate crime, both in the UK and in the international arena. Winner of the 2011 Ability Media International Award.
Fussy Freya and the Fabulous Feast (Frances Lincoln, 2008)
Subject: picture book about fussy eating.