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MARY, MARY, QUITE CONTRARY...,
This review is from: Slammerkin (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. Her life seemed to be headed in a new direction, however, if she could only manage to make the choices that she needed to make in order to keep her life on track. Unfortunately, she began to weave a web of deception that in the end became her own waterloo, wiping out all vestiges of hope for a life worth living. Ultimately caught between a rock and a hard place, Mary committed an act that she could not undo, and it is this that was to be her own final undoing.
A dark and atmospheric tale, this is a story that is sure to capture the imagination of the reader. Through the vivid use of language and historical, period detail, the author captures the flavor of the class conflicts of eighteenth century England, as well as a sense of the strictures and social mores that were imposed upon the women of that time. Graphic and explicit in its description of Mary Saunders' brief and all too tragic life, this book is an unusual and intriguing work of fiction.