The Woman at the Wheel by Penny Haw

The Woman at the Wheel
by Penny Haw “I was ten years old when I fell upon five words that changed the way I saw the world.”

“He wrote that she was ‘unfortunately, only a girl again.”

Three things immediately attracted me to this book.  Firstly, this author’s book “The Invincible Miss Cust” has been on my “must read” list for longer than I should admit. Penny Haw was also born and bred in South Africa, and it is always a joy to explore the writings of local authors.  And thirdly, during Penguin Random House South Africa’s mid-year sneak peek of the best of the best that is due to be released in the later half of 2023, “The Woman at the Wheel” came highly recommended.

Penny Haw’s historical fiction book The Woman at the Wheel chronicles the life of Bertha Benz, the first automobile’s inventor’s wife. It is about the woman behind the man and the brand that we still know today.

Bertha is portrayed in the book as a strong, wise, and daring woman who encouraged her husband to follow his passion and realise his goal of building a vehicle without horses. The book also describes the difficulties and roadblocks that Carl and Bertha encountered in their personal and professional lives, including monetary setbacks, societal prejudice, family strife, and technological issues.

The Woman at the Wheel
by Penny Haw Based on in-depth historical research, the book vividly depicts the intriguing late 19th-century German period when scientific advancements and the industrial revolution were changing the course of history. The book also looks at women’s empowerment, gender equality, and the place of women in science and technology. The book has an interesting writing style with realistic dialogue, vivid details, and well-rounded characters. The book is inspirational and enjoyable in addition to being instructional and informative.

Anyone who appreciates historical fiction, especially stories about independent female heroes (who history forgot), should read this book, in my opinion. The book pays homage to Bertha Benz, the woman who not only invented the automobile but also spearheaded the global transition into a new century. Fascinating and moving!

Read an extract here

Thanks to Penguin Random House SA for the opportunity to read and review this book.

About this book:


  • ISBN 9781728257730
  • Format Trade Paperback
  • Recommended Price R350.00
  • Published October 2023

About the author:

Penny Haw is a South African author, journalist, and columnist. She was born in Pietermaritzburg in 1963 and grew up on a dairy farm in the Lufafa valley near Ixopo. Penny has written for many leading South African newspapers and magazines for more than three decades. Her children’s book, Nicko, The Tale of a Vervet Monkey on an African Farm was published in 2017 and is now included in school curricula. Her debut novel for adults, The Wilderness Between Us, was published in 2021.