September 3rd, 1878. The paddle steamer SS Princess Alice is making a ‘Moonlight Trip’ from Northfleet on the Thames Estuary to Swan Pier near London Bridge. Close to Woolwich town, she collides with the collier Bywell Castle which slices her in two. Within minutes the Alice sinks to the bottom of the river. Six hundred and fifty Londoners lose their lives. It is the worst maritime disaster in Thames history. For days the bloated bodies of men, women and children are hauled out of the stinking river, watched by the children of The Creek, a dust-blown harbour community whose forty six cottages and three ale houses sustain the lives of the labourers and their families who toil in the cement factories lining the Northfleet riverbank.
For the ordinary people who live, breathe, love and die amid the dust and grime, the choking atmosphere of the cement factories is taken for granted. For the factory owners, the air they breathe is fresh by comparison. They live above it all. After Florence Grant and her sister Lottie are abandoned by their mother, she uncovers evidence of her parents’ secret lives. But it raises more questions than answers. Based on a true story and set against a backdrop of Victorian poverty, exploitation and the fight for women’s rights, Field of Dust charts a working class girl’s search for the truth about her drunken mother and the wreckage of her family. Florence is a survivor. But will she find the love and happiness she so desperately longs for?
Author Angela Jean Young grew up in Gravesend, Kent. Her family lived and worked on the River Thames for generations – which is what inspires her writing. Her autobiographical novel, Hollow Victory charted a teenger’s journey through the not so Swinging Sixties. During the 70s and 80s, Angela worked as a researcher in London’s dynamic advertising scene. Today, she lives and writes in Buckinghamshire.