Resurrecting buried scandals, audacious hoaxes and private tragedies, Emma Donoghue has written a sequence of short stories about peculiar moments in the history of the British Isles.
Here artists mix with poisoners and countesses rub shoulders with cross-dressers, vicars and revolutionaries; the Second Coming is proclaimed in Scotland; and a miniature girl becomes a tiny skeleton in a London museum.
"Has an extraordinary talent for turning exhaustive research into plausible characters and narratives; she presents a vibrant world seething with repressed feeling and class tensions." (Publisher's Weekly)
"Donoghue’s great strength – apart from her storytelling gift – is her emotional intelligence" (Irish Independent)
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Excellent collection of short stories
A Fantastic Collection!
There are a wide range of stories in this collection and, while some are better than others, most are very good. The collection includes stories about Effie Gray and Dido Elizabeth Belle, two women whose lives I find especially interesting! (Other readers may recognize their stories from the recent films 'Effie' & 'Belle') The different narrators bring to life a variety of characters, with a variety of accents and backgrounds. This makes the audiobook version particularly great!
Donogue does a brilliant job of fleshing-out the characters that she encounters, through historical research. The moment where Mary Toft realizes that she is trapped and that her hoax is sure to be found out is unexpectedly moving. Donogue explores the way women's bodies are viewed and abused by society, bringing an uncomfortable conclusion to what would have otherwise been a silly little story. These themes are further explored in 'Cured' which recounts the first experimental attempts at female circumcision, and is very grim and unsettling!
The narration of 'My Last Rabbit' and 'Cured' are probably my favorites, as these are my favorite stories in the collection. However 'Revelations' also features a particularly good narrator with a strong Scottish accent.
There are many emotionally charged stories in this collection and I found that many of the stories featured particularly moving scenes. It was exciting and interesting, but most of the stories seemed to be desired to inspire shock or outrage.
The description of historical injustices such as those within 'Dido' or 'The Necessity of Burning' really make an impact. Donogue includes comments after each story too, to clarify which details are invented and which are not, and in these sections she usually hammers her point home - just in case any of her readers are too dense to miss it.
- Sophie Syddall