Longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize 2016.
The debut novel by actress and presenter Janet Ellis, The Butcher's Hook is the dark and unexpected tale of a young girl in 18th-century London determined to take her life in her own hands. No matter the cost.
Anne Jaccob is coming of age in late 18th-century London. When she is taken advantage of by her tutor - and her father's great friend - her powerlessness in the world is brought home to her. And it joins several other formative experiences in her short life so far that will serve to dictate her future actions. Her saviour appears in the form of Fub, the butcher's boy. But will what she learns in his company actually be her salvation or her damnation?
Anne's morality is certainly more than dubious, but the influences on her are no less so. And through Ellis' rich but deft storytelling and portrayal of Anne's strength of character, listeners will find themselves almost excusing her escalating crimes, even when self-defence becomes overridden by something darker.
This is a book in which the panoramas and filthy streets of the city, the colour and bear-baiting of St Bartholomew's Fair, the nobility and the hypocrisy of learning and piety, the excitement and envy of love and obsession, and the visceral rites of passage of passion and death are all gloriously celebrated and scrutinised.
A sweeping tale - but always an intimate one - told with the same intricate details as Sarah Waters' works and the compelling darkness of Hannah Kent's Burial Rites.
"A high-finish performance." (Observer, New Faces of Fiction)
"Dark, weird and gloriously feminist." (Elle UK, Best New Books For 2016)
"A boldness rare in a first novel" (Mail on Sunday)
"A strange, unsettling story." (The Times)
"Audacious." (Sunday Express)
"A top-class debut." (Fanny Blake, Woman & Home)
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A fascinating read
- MS RUTH SHAW
- J Harrison