Tuesday, November 23, 2010


by Emma Donoghue

After reading "Room" I wanted to read more of Emma Donoghue's novels; "Slammerkin" looked like the most interesting.

Donoghue is a truly noteworthy story teller. Her writing style is immediately appealing and alluring. It is both accessible and vivid. Donoghue puts her readers in the center of Mary's world. Of course, it helps that when I studied abroad in London, I lived down the street from the Charring Cross underground station and went to the Cheshire Cheese a time or two. But regardless of my own knowledge of London (which is vastly different from that of Victorian London), Mary's haunts are clear and have distinct character. Donoghue turns the grime of 18th century London into poetry. Even when Mary moves on from London, the sense of place is clear and the town on Monmouth comes alive.

Mary is an incredible character. I didn't know until reading the notes in the back of the book that she is loosely based on a real person. But that's not what makes her great. To go through her world and grow up with her makes this story riveting. This is a really twisted kind of bildungsroman, which is excellent.

I really enjoyed this book because it was something different. It is set in a historical time, with references to real people and places, and Donoghue is more than skilled enough as s writer to make the whole thing believable, for the sake of the novel. This book is propelled by its characters and circumstances (Doll is a truly fantastic character, I think she may be my favorite in the book). There is a real conflict of whether to be compassionate towards Mary or not; that's for the reader to decide.

Definitely read this book. There is a lot of sex in it, but that's not what the whole story is about. Read it. It's some really excellent escapism.

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