Canadian Literature Review - The Factory Voice

Reviewed by: Karen Crossley

The world is full of women--quirky, inspirational, mad and memorable women--whose tales are seldom told. In two distinct ways, Lori Lansens and Jeanette Lynes have taken it upon themselves to rememdy that situation, each crafting a story of surprising women who are meant, I am sure, to enchant with their quirkiness, inspire by their actions, amaze in their madness, and stick in the memory long after the covers of their books are closed.

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Where Lansens' tale focuses on one compelling character, Jeanette Lynes brings together an almost Dickensian cast of characters in The Factory Voice. Set in 1940s Ontario, with most of the men at war and the women called upon to "man" the war machine factories, Lynes highlights the lives and loves of a group of women who find refuges of various kinds at Fort William Aviation, where Mosquito airplanes are made. Taking its name from the factory newsletter, The Factory Voice presents a series of apparently disconnected but ultimately hopelessly intertwined stories, primarily from the female point of view, as the group of diverse women struggle to get along. The four main characters span the emotional spectrum from mania and melancholy, from the unbelievably peppy Audrey Foley (snack-wagon girl) to the vicious Ruby Kozak (head stenographer/newsletter engineer) and from the haunted Muriel McGregor (engineer) to the taunted Florence Voutilainen (factory girl). There are hints throughout the novel that all of these women have storied pasts, but the narrative itself skims along the surfaces of their lives, and the deeper stories remain untold. Since the novel lacks a single focal character, the stories read like a series of small crises, with emphasis on each incident rather than character development. Although every woman featured in the novel is demonstrably a different woman by the narrative's end, we readers never really know enough about any one particular character to be moved by the transformation. The result is a read that's fun, but not fulfilling.

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