Sunday, 17 July 2016

Review: The Butcher's Hook by Janet Ellis

Title: The Butcher's Hook
Author: Janet Ellis
Publisher: Two Roads
Pages: 368
Genres: Historical Fiction

Sweet Home
At nineteen, Anne Jaccob is awakened to the possibility of joy when she meets Fub, the butcher’s apprentice, and begins to imagine a life of passion with him.

The only daughter of well-to-do parents, Anne lives a sheltered life. Her home is a miserable place. Though her family want for nothing, her father is uncaring, her mother is ailing, and the baby brother who taught her to love is dead. Unfortunately her parents have already chosen a more suitable husband for her than Fub.

But Anne is a determined young woman, with an idiosyncratic moral compass. In the matter of pursuing her own happiness, she shows no fear or hesitation. Even if it means getting a little blood on her hands.
''We do not need pretty rainbows, Fub and I. We will not brush hands at a dance or exchange covert glances in the back of a carriage. That is a sugary romance, collapsing in brittle shards when you bite. Ours is as chewy as glue."

Set in Georgian London in 1763, nineteen year old Anne Jaccobs leads quite a dull life. Cloistered by her family she has no friends and rarely leaves the house. The butcher's boy, Fub delivers meat to the household one day and inadvertently meets Anne, both their lives will never be the same.

I was really surprised by The Butcher's Hook. Part of me was expecting a typical historical fiction with a heavy dose of sugary forbidden love, but the story was much grittier and darker than I ever could have imagined. The romance between Fub and Anne is just typical of first-love obsession and it didn't unfold exactly like how I expected.

Anne's London is a disgusting place, full of bodily secretions, foul odours and suspect stains. I felt utterly revolted by the vivid description of the filth of the time period but it really helped to bring 1763 London to life. Illness and death are recurring themes throughout this book that really illustrate how precarious and short life was during that time.

Anne is the exact kind of character I love, she is morally grey and selfish but also tenacious. Anne is a character that knows what she wants and what she needs to do in order to get it. Anne is also an unreliable narrator and I often wondered how other character's viewpoints would differ. I really enjoy unlikeable characters and reading about Anne's dysfunctional home life fascinated me.

The ending was abrupt, random and left me feeling unsatisfied but overall I loved this book. I would highly recommend The Butcher's Hook to readers who enjoy page-turning gritty historical fiction with a dash of the macabre.

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