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Slammerkin [Paperback]

Emma Donoghue
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Jun 2001

Set in London and Monmouth in the late 1700s, this is an extraordinary novel about Mary Saunders, the young daughter of a poor seamstress. Mary hungers greedily for fine clothes and ribbons, as people of her class do for food and warmth. It's a hunger that lures her into prostitution at the age of thirteen. Mary is thrown out by her distraught mother when she gets pregnant and almost dies on the dangerous streets of London. Her saviour is Doll - a prostitute. Mary roams London freely with Doll, selling her body to all manner of 'cullies', dressed whorishly in colourful, gaudy dresses with a painted red smile.

Faced with bad debts and threats upon her life she eventually flees to Monmouth, her mother's hometown, where she attempts to start a new life as a maid in Mrs Jones's house. But Mary soon discovers that she can't escape her past and just how dearly people like her pay for yearnings not fitting to their class in society...



Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (7 Jun 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 186049899X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860498992
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.6 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 286,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

"Strangers might remember a trip to Monmouth to see a girl hang, but who would spare a thought for the whos and hows and whys?" Mary Saunders asks herself on the way to the scaffold. Emma Donoghue has taken the scant facts of Mary's short life in the 1760s and given her heart, flesh, guts and humour in this fine tale. Mary, at 13, seduced by an impulse for a coloured ribbon, and dreams of silks and sashes--as well as longings to better herself--becomes a slammerkin, a loose woman, in the roil of Hogarthian London. Her friend and mentor into the world of tricks is Doll who knows every inch of the city's high and low life. When Mary finds her dead, she flees to Monmouth and tries to reinvent herself as a servant girl. But the chafes of servitude and of "knowing her place" lead to a double life, a brutal murder, and her end at 16.

No rags to riches tale here, but nor does the author allow the brutal circumstances of Mary's life to swamp her colourful and richly textured narrative. Mary is full of spark and cheek; her eye is sharp to the hypocrisies of privilege and religion, her speech deliciously expresses her disdain for her "betters". Only occasionally does the narrative slip into too much telling at the expense of showing, and thus loses some of its emotional impact and pace.

That said, Emma Donoghue's gifts as a storyteller are considerable: her unsparing accounts of small and large events, a wealth of detail and a wonderfully rich and fluent language makes this a vivid and moving slice from the underbelly of 18th-century life.--Ruth Petrie

Review

What attracted me was the subtle way this girl, who feels herself to be a lost and even wicked soul, is almost tamed by her circumstances - but never quite, never really losing that restlessness, frustration and ambition which has marked her from the beginning. There's no cheating in the end, no happy neat ending, but instead a rawness which feels real and deeply satisfying. I'm sure it will be hugely enjoyed and I wish it every luck (Margaret Forster)

Strangers might remember a trip to Monmouth to see a girl hang, but who would spare a thought for the whos and hows and whys?" Mary Saunders asks herself on the way to the scaffold. Emma Donoghue has taken the scant facts of Mary's short life in the 1760 (No rags to riches tale here, but nor does the author allow the brutal circumstances of Mary's life to swamp her colourful and richly textured narrative. Mary is full of spark and cheek; her eye is sharp to the hypocrisies of privilege and religion, her sp)

That said, Emma Donoghue's gifts as a storyteller are considerable: her unsparing accounts of small and large events, a wealth of detail and a wonderfully rich and fluent language makes this a vivid and moving slice from the underbelly of 18th-century life. (Ruth Petrie, AMAZON.CO.UK REVIEW)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fanny Hill on Steroids 27 Sep 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved this book. I read it a few years ago and it is one that I return to periodically and re-read, and I enjoy it each time.
So I am delighted to find it available as a Kindle book.
The character of 'Mary', the female protagonist, is not a likeable one at all.She is conniving, cunning and ultimately a criminal, but she is very much a product of her time.She follows the path that Life has decided she must follow to the bitter end. It is not a happy book and some readers may find the downward spiral of Mary's short life depressing- but Emma Donoghue has created a fascinating character, supported by other vividly drawn portraits.Georgian England is a lonely purgatory for people who slip through Society's net, as does Mary.I liked the character of 'Doll',the irrepressible prostitute,the best of all. Sharp, sad, hilarious in parts,dark.Read it!
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read! 18 Nov 2003
Format:Paperback
This is the kind of book that you get so immersed in, that I missed my stop while reading it on the bus!
Emma Donoghue writes as if she had walked the streets of 18th century London and Monmouth and seen it first hand. I work in the Charing Cross area where the first part of the book is set, and while wandering around I found myself imagining life as it happened back then, looking for clues of the London of old, seeing things through Mary Saunders eyes.
It is a tragic tale, and the fact that it is based on a true story and interweaves real people's lives makes it all the more spooky and believable.
I would recommend it to anyone!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I loved it! 28 Sep 2004
Format:Paperback
The kind of book you can't put down -- and the kind you're upset is over. It leaves you fighting with yourself over a sense of "fairness" that is missed in these stories (and that's probably the point).
Mary's story is one of a girl born possibly in the wrong time and place, a woman who wanted more than life could ever give her in her time.
A definite must-read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but... 7 July 2012
By VdlC
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
When I read the sample for this book after falling in love with "Room", I thought "oh, yes, I am going to like this". I bought it straight away, read the first few pages... and put it down for a couple of weeks. They were so upsetting I couldn't stand it. But then I went back to it and started loving the book, I couldn't put it down and then, with the second part I realised I was... bored! It starts great but then it trails off and the second part really is boring and random and pointless but the end is quite ok, I guess.
So, I can't say I didn't like it, and I won't say it's a bad book, since it's brilliantly written, but I guess the second part spoiled it for me.
Love Emma Donoghue and will continue reading her work, though. She is an amazing writer.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a loose dress, a loose woman 13 Jan 2003
Format:Hardcover
I enjoyed this book immensely. It seemed a tragic story. Losing virtue at a tender age. So innocent. But Mary amazed me with her stength. She learned well and fast and was a powerful young women through and through. I never sensed that she truly lost who she felt she was. It always managed to break through her facade. The story felt so real and opened my eyes to what London was like in the 1760s. If I think about it, London hasn't really changed much.
This book opened my mind, I strongly advise reading it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slammerkin 12 April 2011
By mystic
Format:Paperback
A well written book,arousing a mix of emotions in the reader; the book cleverly conveys the social and cultural lives of the times in which the book has been set. This is not a book for the faint hearted or easily shocked reader; but rather for the discerning reader who is ready to immerse themselves into a colourful past times and appreciate the delicacy of the web of life that is woven by the author.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable summer read 5 July 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I purchased "Slammerkin" at Gatwick Airport a couple of weeks ago. Although I am not a historical novel fan I thought this book might be a bit different than the usual offerings and I was pleasantly surprised. This books follows the story of Mary Saunders, a girl in the 18th century who ends up prostituting herself to obtain the finer things in life and although she should be quite unlikeable, you can't help but empathaise with her. I particularly like Emma Donoghue's attention to detail of day to day life in Britain during the 18th century as well as the richly described characters who almost come to life right off the pages. Most enjoyable and highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars MARY, MARY, QUITE CONTRARY... 2 Dec 2002
By Lawyeraau HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is a well written, artfully told tale of a young, working class, teenage girl, Mary Saunders, in eighteenth century London, England, who, through a moment's exercise in bad judgment, found herself turned out of the only home she had ever known by her own mother. Her desperation to survive saw her ushered into a life of prostitution and servitude. Based upon the actual, brief but notorious, life of a certain Mary Saunders, a servant girl who killed her mistress and was executed for her crime in England in 1764, it is a fascinating, historical tapestry, woven out of the few known threads of a misbegotten life.
Here, Mary Saunders is cast as an unsophisticated, thirteen year old, who, as many young girls are wont to do, desired pretty fripperies. One day, she coveted a red ribbon, and her desire for it would ultimately cost her dearly. Tossed out of her home by her mother, when her indiscretion became evident, Mary found herself immersed in the underbelly of London, surviving as only a poor, but pretty, young girl could in eighteenth century London. Turning to prostitution, she descended into a life that heralded both her independence and her personal degradation.
The fates ultimately conspired to have Mary leave London for Monmouth, the birthplace of her mother. There she arranged to meet with one of her mother's childhood friends, Mrs. Jones. Giving her a sob story, Mary initially preyed upon Mrs. Jones' tender sensibilities, and she was hired as a sort of servant, but with favored status due to her being Mrs. Jones' old friend's daughter.
While there, Mary, now sixteen, was torn between her surprising contentment with her new found role and her desire to return to the excitement of London.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, vivid tale of a girl's downfall
This is a beautifully written, vividly descriptive, and compelling tale of a girl's downfall. Although she's not a very likeable character, it's hard not to feel sympathy for her... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ebook Proofreader
4.0 out of 5 stars Life not much fun when you're an eighteenth century prostitute
But I can recommend this book, in which Donoghue details the short, violent life of an ill-fated teenage prostitute. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sharpie
4.0 out of 5 stars Grim but riveting reading
A realistic re-creation of 18th century working class life, full of gritty detail and unsparing in its depiction of prostitution and also of small town life.
Published 2 months ago by Michael G. Hinton
4.0 out of 5 stars Different, but excellent!
This is very different to Room, but still a fabulously well written book with the same amounts of mystery, guessing, twists and amazing detail.
Published 3 months ago by Jade
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
I really enjoyed this book. Did not know where it was going at the beginning but by the end could not put it down.
Published 3 months ago by Mrs Jane Clough
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling to the end
Beautifully written so that characters are three dimensional and the reader is drawn into harsh, yet human situations. It sustained a compelling quality from start to finish.
Published 3 months ago by Irene
5.0 out of 5 stars Briliiant read
A fantastic read- best book I've read for a while.Could't put it down.I liked both 'halves ' of the book , It's set in two locations and each was absorbing although the description... Read more
Published 4 months ago by kate gunn
4.0 out of 5 stars ‘We’re each of us born into a place on this earth. We must make the...
Mary Saunders, born in 1748 into Hogarth's working class-London, yearns for a better life. At the age of fourteen, she loses her virginity in return for a shiny red ribbon. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jennifer Cameron-Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars A good yarn.
Good story that keeps your interest all the way through. Well drawn characters with stories to tell and real emotions that keep you coming back until the inevitable end.
Published 5 months ago by Happy girl
4.0 out of 5 stars Very thought provoking
Mary Saunders is fourteen and knows already she does not want the life her mother has, she wants more. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Lainy
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