Most helpful positive review
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Clever, gripping, intelligent
on 31 October 2013
One of the things that I like about McCann is that her books are never just repeats of each other. Set in the eighteenth century, this one is situated in a different world from either her superlative As Meat Loves Salt or the slightly less engaging The Wilding.
We're now in an urban setting (London, Bath) where concerns about money, gender, status and power are made central, and where characters are able to shift their social identities, so that people are not always who they present themselves to be.
Into this mix is thrown innocent Sophia, desperately in love with Mr Zedland who she is to marry; and the less-innocent Betsy-Ann. As both women uncover lies and deceptions, they find that they can, with help, take some control of their own lives.
This reminds me a little of Sarah Water's Fingersmith with its sense of people being able to fashion their own identities, and the emphasis on female empowerment in different social settings, though McCann's voice is her own.
So this is an energetic historical novel which uses the concerns of the present - race, gender, the authority of money, the slipperiness of identity - to inform a view of the past. This doesn't, for me, have the emotional rawness and power of As Meat Loves Salt but it is a clever, gripping, intelligent read - recommended.
(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)