The Butcher's Hook - Janet Ellis - a hair rasing tale
I was hoping it would completely blow my socks off and it did captivate and entertain me to a large degree. None of the characters in this historical setting are very likeable, they are all just a teeny bit larger than life, charicatured with an almost Dickensian tongue in cheek. The story is dark and quite surprising, beginning like a Regency Romance, building into a bit of a bodice ripper becoming quirky and twisted then ending with a rather shocking climax!
The main protagonist Anne Jaccob, is a young woman whom, the story tells us, has her innocence stolen at a tender age by a slightly paedophilic tutor who gets a touch too close for comfort. It's my belief that this completely amoral and immoral young lady has a thread of corruption running through her right from the start and has little virtue to steal.
Hardened by the death of a baby brother she had lavished affection of only to be left bereft at his sudden death, she deliberately erects a shell of callosity around her allowing no-one close. Her Mothers attention is claimed by a newborn daughter, and she gets no paternal warmth (like father like daughter, in my opinion)
She avoids closeness and overtures of friendship, yet craves love and passion and she develops a fixation on the butchers boy Fub who delivers meat to the family household. Anne takes it upon herself to pursue this young fella, despite her father arranging a mutally beneficial engagement for her to the foppish, pernickety and decidedly slimy Simeon Onions.
Deciding to take her future in her own hands she sets off on a destructive path, with no thought for any of the consequences.
I found that this manipulative little madam managed to contrive a remarkable amount of freedom for a girl from a middle class background in the 18th century, however I admired her single mindedness and resourcefulness. I SO couldn't warm to her though, she is dissolute, profligate and quite licentiously repellant.
The book completely sucked me in and I was enthralled by the story and kept riffling through the pages at a fair old pace. It's a hectic and hair raising tale, a coming of age story for adults. Read it, love it, but don't be taken in by dear Anne who is like an aniseed ball, hard and deceptive with any sweetness well tempered by the curious bitterness of flavour and the darkness of licorice.
My gratitude goes to Bookbridgr and the publisher Two Roads from Hodder and Stoughton for my review copy.