It is early in the 20th Century and the times are changing. For Hazel Louise Mull-Dare the changes are having a massive impact. She was there the day that Emily Davison was knocked down by a horse at the Epsom Derby and from that moment on she becomes obsessed with the rights and wrongs of the world.
Having lived an extremely sheltered life, Hazel – the daughter of a gentleman – looks at the world with wide eyed optimism and ends up landing herself in a spot of bother when she befriends the wrong sort of girl. Her life is further awash with turmoil when her father loses all of their money (and potentially their social status through gambling. It is these outside factors (among plenty of others) that force Hazel Louise Mull-Dare to grow up and to take stock of what is really happening in the world.
Hazel is the second book that I have read by Julie Hearn and I have to say I liked it more than Rowan the Strange. It pains me to say that because I really enjoyed Rowan the Strange; as did the KS3 students that I read it with two years ago. Once again, Hearn has come up trumps. She has a brilliant ability to create believable and likeable historical fiction for children.
What is marvellous about Hearn’s style is that she uses history and the social changes to mirror the protagonist. In this case, the protagonist Hazel is growing up and becoming a young woman in a time when women were coming into their own. They were fighting for the vote and trying to gain independence; Hazel’s life has been so very sheltered that she gains independence through knowledge. As she learns the secrets of her family, the truth about so-called “friends” and the realities of what is expected of young women she becomes more and more incensed to have control.
It is this sort of fiction that is vital for young adults. Exposing young adults to fiction with a factual base is key to peaking curiosity and helping them realise the “what” and “when” of how modern day society was created and the sacrifices that people made; in this particular case, the fight for votes by the Suffragettes.
Hazel by Julie Hearn is available now.