Author: Penny Haw
Published by: Sourcebooks Landmark on Oct. 3, 2023
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: Sourcebooks Landmark
Book Rating: 9/10
“Unfortunately, only a girl again.”
From a young age, Cäcilie Bertha Ringer is fascinated by her father’s work as a master builder in Pforzheim, Germany. But those five words, which he wrote next to her name in the family Bible, haunt Bertha.
Years later, Bertha meets Carl Benz and falls in love—with him and his extraordinary dream of building a horseless carriage. Bertha has such faith in him that she invests her dowry in his plans, a dicey move since they alone believe in the machine. When Carl’s partners threaten to withdraw their support, he’s ready to cut ties. Bertha knows the decision would ruin everything. Ignoring the cynics, she takes matters into her own hands, secretly planning a scheme that will either hasten the family’s passage to absolute derision or prove their genius. What Bertha doesn’t know is that Carl is on the cusp of making a deal with their nemesis. She’s not only risking her marriage and their life’s work, but is also up against the patriarchy, Carl’s own self-doubt, and the clock.
Like so many other women, Bertha lived largely in her husband’s shadow, but her contributions are now celebrated in this inspiring story of perseverance, resilience, and love.
Fascinating, compelling, and descriptive!
The Woman at the Wheel is an insightful, immersive tale that sweeps you away to Germany in the late 1800s and into the life of Cäcilie Bertha Ringer, a young woman ahead of her time who not only supported and encouraged her engineer husband, Carl Benz, who was determined to create the first horseless carriage but was also the first person to ever drive a vehicle powered by a gas engine long distance when she travelled with two of her sons to her hometown over hundred kilometres away.
The prose is expressive and rich. The characters are driven, supportive, and engaging. And the plot is an absorbing tale of life, loss, love, hope, scepticism, innovation, family, sacrifices, struggles, and successes, as well as the intricacies involved in building an internal-combustion-engine vehicle in the late 19th century.
Overall, The Woman at the Wheel is an alluring, inspirational, well-written tale by Haw that does a beautiful job of highlighting her considerable research and knowledge into this impressive woman I previously knew little to nothing about and her role in developing such an engineering feat that it is still the most commonly used method of transportation today.
This novel is available now.
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Thank you to Sourcebooks Landmark for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.