From rural Essex in the 1820s to London’s docklands in the 1890s, the poor, forced off the land, have choices to make. Do they risk London, with its diseases and crime, in order to find work? Is there any way they can fight back against their masters?
The Walton family are an awkward bunch who won’t conform to other people’s rules. James Walton becomes an outlaw. His son, Will, wants a revolution. Trouble and the hand of the law threaten both their lives. At the same time, two women face the challenge of trying to break out of the straitjacket imposed on their gender. Mary wants to train as a nurse, knowing that by doing so, she has to deny her relationship with Will. Emma’s struggle for independence leads to a prison record and an addiction to opium.
Across London, from the poshest parts to the roughest, a rich mixture of characters – devout Christians, the Irish community, a family of police officers and a mysterious Indian prince – have a part to play in helping Will as he undertakes a search for a missing person and his own salvation.
A Rebellious Breed is a work of historical fiction, set in West Ham, that aims to give a voice to the dispossessed from the land, as well as the thousands who drifted to the Docklands from around the world. Author Hamilton Hay has used archive material from West Ham, as well as other London boroughs and the Essex record office, weaving his research into this fast-paced novel. He is inspired by a number of writers, classical and modern, including Blake, Shelley, Dostoyevsky, Hardy, Dickens, Philip Pullman and Suzanne Collins.