The Potter's Hand, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


In 1774, Josiah Wedgwood, master craftsman possessed with a burning scientific vision, embarks upon the thousand piece Frog Service for Catherine the Great. Josiah's nephew Tom journeys to America to buy clay from the Cherokee for this exquisite china.

Tom is caught up in the American rebellion, and falls for a Cherokee woman who will come to play a crucial role in Josiah's late, great creation: the Portland Vase.

As the family fortune is made, and Josiah's entrepreneurial brilliance creates an empire that will endure for generations, it is his daughter Sukey, future mother of Charles Darwin, who bears clear-eyed witness.


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This was rather an odd book encompassing a biography of Josiah Wedgwood within a novel set against the American War of Independence in which Tom, Wedgwood's nephew sets off from New York to the lands of the Cherokees to buy some of their splendid white clay to fuel Wedgwood's dreams of expansion. It was certainly very informative and I imagine it represented hundreds of hours of deep research.I was definitely impressed to discover that Wedgwood was grandfather of Charles Darwin (the novel opens with Erasmus Darwin, father of Charles, supervising the gruesome amputation by fret saw of one of Wedgwood's legs), and also numbered composer Ralph Vaughan Williams and notable historian C V Wedgwood among his descendants. As one might expect from A N Wilson, this book is beautifully written, and rattles along with plenty of hilarious episodes intermingled with passages of great sensitivity. However, I never felt entirely comfortable with it, and think it might have been wiser to stick to conventional biography (of which, of course, Wilson has shown himself a master). Perhaps I'm just being capricious - after all, prior to reading this book I think that everything i knew about Josiah Wedgwood might have been accommodated on the back of a postage stamp. Now, though, I feel I know altogether too much!

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