‘Joanne Wilson’ by Pat Barker

I started reading a lot more about WWI when I moved to the UK from the US, and that’s how I came across Pat Barker. The Regeneration Trilogy is great, but I also really like her first book, an interlinked series of seven stories, each named for a woman living in a working-class community in the Northeast during the 1970s. She thought it was too depressing and too much about women to be published—she had been trying to write “middle-class novels of manners” — and it took her ten years to find a publisher (go Virago!) even with the encouragement of Angela Carter, who told her “If they can’t sympathise with the women you’re creating, then sod their fucking luck.” It was finally published in 1982. I could choose any one of these seven stories, but I went with the second, ‘Joanne Wilson’, because of its vivid depiction of factory life. 

First published in Union Street, Virago 1982. It has since been published as a Virago Modern Classic and in collected in a combined edition with Blow Your House Down by Picador, 1999