The Factory Voice

12 November 2010

The Factory Voice
by Jeanette Lynes
Published by Coteau Books
Review by Marie Powell Mendenhall
$21.00 ISBN: 1-55050-401-0

The Factory Voice mixes the best traits of historical and mystery novels into one package.

It tells the story of four women during the World War II era and the men who become part of their lives. Like all good Canadian stories, it begins with a train ride: 16-year-old Audrey escapes marriage in Alberta to work in an airplane factory in Fort William, Ontario. Sharing the train is Muriel, a brilliant woman who becomes chief engineer at the same factory.

In Fort William, secretary Ruby engages Audrey as snack-cart girl to gather “dilly” stories for her Factory Voice newsletter. Before long they cross paths with Ruby’s friend Florence, who must wear a red kerchief as probationary riveter because her mother is a notorious Red Finn.

Add to this mix a prison break by a man who turns out to be Muriel’s first love (an anti-war protester), a cantankerous test pilot, a couple of brash young men, and a British intelligence officer sent to investigate possible sabotage, and the novel’s plots and subplots bubble to the end of its 285 pages.

Told in present tense, this debut novel from well-known poet Jeanette Lynes is fast-paced and engaging. Each woman has a unique voice, and Lynes even switches from direct address (first person) to third person. Historical details weave in another layer, from Audrey’s Wonder Woman and Wizard of Oz obsessions to phrases like “stagger me” and “the bee’s knees.”

Jeanette Lynes has been writer-in-residence at Saskatoon Public Library, among other places, and has taught at Sage Hill Writing Experience. She co-edits the Antigonish Review and teaches at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. She has written five award-winning books of poetry, and The Factory Voice is her first novel.


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