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VINE VOICEon 19 November 2006
Harris's List was an annual publication that listed all the prostitutes in and around the Covent Garden area and their 'specialities'! In The Covent Garden Ladies, Rubenhold explores the story of how the list came into being and the three main personalities behind the famous book; Samuel Derrick (a down and out Irish poet), Charlotte Hayes ( a prostitute and then procuress) and John Harrison, also known as Jack Harris, who lent his name to the project.

This is facinating social history. Not only do we learn about the lives of our three main protagonists, but also what it was like to be in the Fleet prison, what is was like to be a struggling writer at the time and also about the theatres, pubs and brothels of Covent Garden.

The book also includes many of the entries from Harris's List, some of which are hilarious. I would have loved to have met a woman with 'breath like a Welsh bagpipe' or the prostitute who 'if you can forget she's hunchbacked, she's a little Venus'!

I would have liked to know more about the lives of the prostitutes at the time. All this was confined to the last chapter of the book, which was unfortunate as it was one of the more interesting parts of the book as a whole.

Recommended.
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on 18 November 2009
Meticuously researched and beautifully written this book tells the stories of the three people behind the infamous 18th century Harris's List- Jack Harris, the pimp/waiter who lent his name to the List, the impecunious Irish poet Samuel Derrick who composed it and Charlotte Hayes, the love of his life and the most successful purveyor of sex to the aristocracy and gentry of the period.

With a novelist's flair Hallie Rubenhold narrates the background of her three subjects and their inter-weaving. Her style is so gripping that I quickly became involved in the progress of their lives and their eventual fates.The rich seamy tapestry of the profligacy and degredation of 18th century London, in particular Covent Garden the main centre of it's vice trade, is carefully presented with fascinating insights into such subjects as imprisonment in the Fleet for debt, life as a hack writer and the lawlessness of the taverns and coffee houses.

The lives and fates of the women of the List is a sober reminder that in the 18th century prostitution was often the only alternative to starvation and destitution. I was glad to find that Hallie Rubenhold has treated the subject with circumspection and while not lessening the horrors of the sex trade of the 18the century has avoided any gratuitous attempt to titillate. The only criticism of the book I have is the too lengthy chapter devoted to samples of the List which quickly became repetitive and which I skipped over without missing any of the interest of the narrative drive.

The book throws a fascinating light on a dark corner of history and reveals a society as obscessed with celebrities, self-gratification and sex as our own.
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on 6 January 2014
facinated with the 18th century and have to say this one is a BRILLIANT account of that time, got to be the best book about the whole covent garden scene, not kidding the author makes you actually feel as if your there, dont know how she does it but loved this book , just could not put it down...just bought another one of her books hope its as good, well done
should be 10 stars
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on 21 January 2012
This is a great insight into the lives of 18th century prostitutes and the clients who visited them. As a piece of social history it is fascinating to read about the systematic cataloguing of each one's charms and specialities and the text is enlivened with some amusing insights into very mundane matters such as where the ladies who provided whippings bought their birches...at a reduced rate of course!
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on 8 February 2012
I bought this a few months back and it can only interest me half way. I am more interested in the original list of Pimp General Jack but unfortunately there is only a small section in this book. I much rather read about the list myself and form my own opinion than having someone tell me their opinion.
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on 30 September 2015
Very good read. Most interesting about that period in history and for working women in particular. It was well written and have ordered another book ny her
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on 5 January 2009
What a read. What a time! One could almost be there. Hallie Rubenhold writes with such style as to transport the reader back into the Georgian era with such an intimate insight that you could close your eyes and pop in to the Shakespears Head Tavern, or the Rose Tavern for a pint and a grope. Loved every page, So sorry it had to end.
DC
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on 7 October 2015
What a fascinating story! Well written and a real jaunt through Georgian demimonde. Loved it.
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