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An Almond for a Parrot Paperback – 27 Jul 2017
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“A bawdy, romping affair … Delaney mixes up genres ― historical fiction, erotica, magic realism ― to create something original’
- Book of the Month in The Times, November 2016
‘“An irresistible erotic fairytale for adults”
– The Guardian
“With elements of magical realism, plenty of sexy scenes, and a good dollop of drama, this is one hell of a read”
- The Sun
“A saucy bodice-ripper that combines magical realist flights of fancy with a smattering of punchy feminist politics”
– The Metro
"A compelling mix of bawdy romp and magical realism."
“A fun, explicit romp with real stakes that will have you trying to finish this book in one sitting”
“An Almond for a Parrot romps and twists like the Fairy House girls in their bed chambers. It’s full of lust and magic, but not without heart. It’s an irresistible world to drop into.”
- Emerald Street
Selected as a Buzzfeed Brilliant Book You Must Read This Autumn
About the Author
Wray Delaney is the pen name of Sally Gardner, the award-winning children’s novelist who has sold over 2 million books worldwide and been translated into 22 languages. She lives in London and this is her first adult novel.
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"I would like to make myself the heroine of this story and my character to be so noble that you could not help but be in love with me."
Well, noble or innocent victim she may not be, but I did fall in love with Tully. I fell in love with her humour, her outlook, her engaging recount of her life to the point at which we meet her (prison), her astute observations, pertinent comments on people and behaviour and, well, everything really. Delaney's writing is well paced yet full of historical detail, fluent and compelling. It is full of life, colour, intrigue, drama and well crafted characters. There is plenty of story and plenty of incident, there are plenty of characters and plenty of themes and ideas but ultimately this is a character driven novel that offers one of the most fascinating and imaginative voices I have come across in a while.
This novel has some strong female characters and I did enjoy Tully's stepmother who stated that wives and husbands who "slept in separate beds had healthier nerves and stronger spirits that those who slept together." I laughed as her "father roared like bedlam and fell to swearing, but all for naught." Delaney cleverly captures the world through Tully's eyes and presents a character who is continually observing, thinking, watching and learning from all she sees around her, reporting back with a candid, wry sense of humour. Tully's life is not without hardship and challenge but I enjoyed every moment, every twist, turn, obstacle and opportunity. This is a novel about coming of age, sexual awakening, propriety and society, women and men, love and marriage, action and consequence and it is truly compelling and captivating.
Delaney's evocation of London in the 1750s is incredibly convincing and underlines her flair, talent and accomplished skill as a writer. In an "age of deception, of wigs, paints and patches....where most of hide behind the painted visage...." Delaney relishes in Tully's "naked" account. I think she has had a lot of fun writing this novel.
Although there are moments of tragedy and sadness, unhappiness and danger, Tully's attitude that the world is a stage and life is a play without rehearsal ensures a buoyant and uplifting atmosphere throughout, alongside a witty sense of acceptance and inevitability. Tully plays a lot with the reader, often speaking directly to the audience which results in a compounding sense of intrigue, a need to turn the page faster and making Tully much more likeable. It is impossible not to feel empathetic towards her, sympathetic to her plight but also at times shocked by her. I also admired her. She is not afraid to speak up for women and defend the choices she has made.
"Women have no money in their own right and many are subjected to the tyranny and cruelty of neglected fathers and husbands. If a woman leaves this so-called protection, she finds the road to virtue closed to her by poverty and necessity. Her body is the only currency she possesses."
The story flits backwards and forwards through Tully's life taking us back to her past and also reminding us of her bleak future as she awaits trial. We are introduced to characters who weave their way in and out of her life and I definitely had favourites who I was pleased to see returning at various stages of Tully's life. I thought each scene was well constructed and Delaney strikes the perfect balance with pace, fluency, description and dialogue. In conclusion, this book is an absolute treat. I loved it. It is a murder story, a story of grief, loss and love. It is a story of magic and faith. It is the story of Tully Truegood.
How to give you an idea of what this book is like? Imagine the aura and setting of an old book mixed with themes of urban fantasy, magic, ghosts and necromancy with an 19th century setting.
The story starts with our main character sat in jail reflecting upon the past and the choices that have led to her facing the noose. The reader is then invited to follow Tully Truegood, as she is taught to control the passion within her.
She is taught the art of pleasure and how to pleasure others, which unfortunately also means heartbreak and disappointment. In her profession it can also mean violence and having to endure or watch violations and intimate betrayals.
Subtly interwoven into the story is a fascinating element of necromancy and ghostly magic. Tully can see the sins of the past, the horrors that haunt us and the mistakes everyone keeps very well hidden. It’s a talent and also a curse.
Delaney also writes with the eloquence of a writer of the 19th century. Her writing goes down like hot chocolate on a cold day. It’s simply a pleasure to read. Hopefully this was the first of many for Delaney. I know I will be both recommending this book and looking forward to the next.
*I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher, via NetGalley, for purposes of review.*
Growing up in an isolated household with only the cook to keep her company, Tully is glad when she can finally escape the influence of her father, a heavily indebted gambler, who always treated her like a maid. She finds a new home at Queenie Gibbs’ Fairy House where she soon becomes one of the most sought after women and a magician’s apprentice – because what many don’t realize is that Tully has powers that even she doesn’t quite understand.
An Almond for a Parrot is written like an 18th-century autobiography. It very much reminds me of Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders. Our heroine Tully writes about her fortunes and misfortunes, about how she turned from an uneducated child to a well-read, rich courtesan who wants to be her own woman.
The novel’s writing style fits the time it is set in. While it is still readable for someone living in the 21st century, the language carries you back to 18th-century London. This also means that the large amount of graphic sexual content reads like a poetic description of a vegetable garden.
In this 400-page novel, Wray Delaney keeps you glued to the pages. If it weren’t for the magical element, you would almost believe you were reading a true account of a courtesan’s life. An Almond for a Parrot is a mix of historical and erotic fiction with a pinch of magical realism. If that sounds good to you, you should give this novel a go, you won’t be disappointed.
* A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.
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