My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Time taken to read - 1 day
Publisher - Virago Press
Pages - 422
Blurb from Goodreads
Born to rough cloth in working-class London in 1748, Mary Saunders hungers for linen and lace. Her lust for a shiny red ribbon leads her to a life of prostitution at a young age, where she encounters a freedom unknown to virtuous young women. But a dangerous misstep sends her fleeing to Monmouth and the refuge of the middle-class household of Mrs. Jones, to become the seamstress her mother always expected her to be and to live the ordinary life of an ordinary girl. Although Mary becomes a close confidante of Mrs. Jones, her desire for a better life leads her back to prostitution. She remains true only to the three rules she learned on the streets of London: Never give up your liberty; Clothes make the woman; Clothes are the greatest lie ever told. In the end, it is clothes, their splendor and their deception, that lead Mary to disaster.
Emma Donoghue's daring, sensually charged prose casts a new sheen on the squalor and glamour of eighteenth-century England. Accurate, masterfully written, and infused with themes that still bedevil us today, Slammerkin is historical fiction for all readers.
Mary Saunders is fourteen and knows already she does not want the life her mother has, she wants more. When she covets a red ribbon and approaches the seller she is attacked and the consequences that follow leads her down a path of no return. By the age of fifteen she is a hardened prostitute, her and her friend Doll do what needs to be done and drink away the hours. The story follows their friendship and Mary's health and Doll lead her to the Magdalen Hospital which sees her follow a different path that flings up twists and turns that keep you reading to the last page.
Well, I read and really liked Room but don't remember the writing being like this, maybe that was because it was told in modern day and via a 5 year olds view point. This is written in a different time period, the 1700s and whilst historical novels are not something I generally go for I really enjoyed most things about this book. I learned a bit about this time period and the writer creates a vivid picture for the reader where you can almost smell and feel the scenario being created.
Mary, whilst being a child and wronged doesn't immediately evoke sympathy from the reader which I found hard and pondered over even after finishing the book. She is selfish, hard, materialistic and cold to a point, I often found myself forgetting her age as I read. Her actions evoked a sense of horror a few times throughout reading and I didn't see the biggest twist coming.
The book paints a very dark picture and baring in mind prostitution is the main theme of the book it is not for the easily offended as sex and that which goes with it is prominent throughout. Morals are another thing that gives pause for thought, what she does, why she does it and other characters actions in the tale.
I normally don't mention covers however within the book, before the first page, my copy had a picture of a slammerkin on a postcard type print inserted into the book (see below). It was unusual but I quite liked it and after reading the book you know its significance. The Slammerkin, as well as being the book title, plays a part to the story but for now I will leave you with the definition within the book. Slammerkin, noun, eigtheeth century, of unknown origin. 1. A loose gown. 2. A loose woman. Perfect title for the book, I felt. 4/5 for me this time and if the other title on my to be read is as good I will buy up the rest of the available titles.