Girl Waits With Gun
by Amy Stewart
Historical Fiction | Crime | 416 Pages | Published by Scribe in 2016
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The eye-catching cover and the headline title – Girl Waits With Gun – may have drawn me to Amy Stewart’s new novel, a work of fiction based on the life of the first female deputy sheriff in the US, but its contents have proven to be just as enchanting as its wrappings as Stewart recounts a vivid and decidedly captivating tale.
In this charming tale of the early twentieth century, feisty and formidable heroines are pitched against furtive criminal elements in the pursuit of reparations, peace and justice as three sisters are dragged into events which soon spiral out of control. In a narrative which skilfully captures the nuances of the time, an endearing historic figure is pulled out of obscurity and put into play on this marvellous fictional stage; a stage which echoes with a resounding and remarkable truth.
From the New York Times best-selling author of The Drunken Botanist comes an enthralling novel based on the forgotten, true story of one of the USA’s first female deputy sheriffs.
Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mould. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters from the city to the country fifteen years before. When a powerful, ruthless factory owner runs down their buggy, a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their farm. The sheriff enlists her help, and it turns out that Constance has a knack for outwitting (and disarming) the criminal element, which might just take her back out into the world and onto a new path in life.
Through Amy Stewart’s exuberant storytelling, Constance Kopp catapults from a forgotten historical anecdote to an unforgettable historical-fiction heroine — an outsized woman not only ahead of her time, but sometimes even ahead of ours.
1914, New Jersey -Whilst travelling into town, the horse drawn buggy driven by the Kopp sisters is hit broadside by a belligerent man in an automobile. But when Constance, the eldest of the Kopp sisters, seeks reparations for the damages, she soon realises that not everyone is driven by the same sense of honour and justice as her and her siblings.
As a case of simple payment turns into a battle of wills, threats and gun fights in the night, Constance Kopp is determined to do all she can to protect her home and her family, even if it means going after the criminals herself. With the aid of the Sheriff, and armed with a revolver, Kopp is one woman even the gangsters will be loath to cross.
Early twentieth century America is brought to life in this exciting depiction of Constance Kopp, a woman who continually questions the stereotypes forced upon her and shows the hidden strength and determination of a generation raised under a cloud of gender inequality and strict social etiquette. This is a novel which surprises with its storyline and spins a wonderful tale of one woman’s unrelenting pursuit of justice.
Amy Stewart creates a vivid stage on which to play her spirited cast of characters; from the rural farm in Hackensack, to the silk dyeing mills of Paterson and the crowded streets of New York City, each setting is brought to life with eloquence and humour, and the depth of history which inextricably goes before it. This is a novel which, despite the ever-present danger and foreboding potential, retains its quaint and charming outlook and benefits because of it.
The driving force behind the plot, however, are the three Kopp sisters and their consistently complicated relationship with their deceased mother, a woman whose strict upbringing still has an overbearing presence in their household, and their cloistered existence on the farm in Hackensack. Whether by poverty, the unwelcome attention of criminal gangs or by unpredictable change in circumstance, their lives are destined to change, but the determination and independence of these three women will see them fight for their continued survival no matter the obstacle.
Constance Kopp, our narrator and heroine, is a woman who brings a great deal of wit and vivacity to the role. Her personality is conflicted by both her modern ideals and her strict upbringing, but her inner strength shows that her lifestyle and unmarried status are a strength to her, fuelling her determination when faced with injustice. Her thought and observations maintain a steady balance of humour throughout the narrative and the revelations of her past injects a considerable amount of surprise and intrigue into the storyline.
Constance’s resolute personality is balanced by that of her younger sister Norma, a stern and direct character whose subtle eccentricities are full of dry wit. With a penchant for carrier pigeons and newspaper clippings which bear ill tidings, her steadfast and determined personality brings a solid dimension to a household which is in an almost constant state of flux and excitement.
Fleurette, the youngest of the three sisters, is responsible for a considerable amount of said excitement. A girl prone to wild bouts of imagination and with a remarkable capacity for exaggeration, she brings out a protective side in her sisters which would make them risk everything to keep her safe. Together, the three Kopp sisters are strong, wilful personalities and remain the most captivating and endearing element of a novel which also retains a flair for excitement and a good sense of humour throughout.Amy Stewart has brought early twentieth century America to life with her charming narrative and wonderfully depicted characters. Whilst aspects of the novel remain entirely fictional, the strength and determination of Constance Kopp remains without question. Girl Waits With Gun is exciting, endearing, and altogether a thoroughly enjoyable read.