Published by Two Roads in Hardback 25th February 2016. My thanks to the Publisher for sending me a review copy and inviting me onto the blog tour.
Georgian London, in the summer of 1763.
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.
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.
'Do you know what this is?' He holds a short twist of thick metal, in the shape of the letter 'S', sharpened at both ends. I shake my head.
'A butcher's hook,' he says, testing the tip of his finger against each point. 'A perfect design. Whichever way up you use it, it's always ready. One end to hook, the other to hang. It has only one simple purpose.' He stands on a stool and fixes it over the bar above him. It waits there, empty.
He climbs down. 'Pleasing, isn't it?'
It is 1763 in Georgian London. Anna Jaccob is grieving the death of her baby brother and is becoming increasingly upset and frustrated with her life at home. Although fairly well off, a happy family it isn't. Her father is trying to arrange a suitable marriage for her, much to Anna's chagrin.
This story is a lot darker than I had imagined and just gets darker as it goes along, a feel Gothic feel to it. The author has recreated Georgian London very well and taken us readers back to a different and unfamiliar time. This she does very, very well.
I guess that you could say that Anna is a sort of heroine, although part of me adores her and part of me despises her. I can understand why she turns out as she did, sadness and heartbreak have made her strong and selfish but they have also made her cold and mean. The other half of me admires her for her strength and pursuit of her future, but she tramples on everybody to get to it and stops at nothing to do what she wants. She is a whirlwind and a real force to be reckoned with.
There was quite a feminist feel to this story, all of the male characters were absolutely ghastly!
This is a chilling and engaging story, that brings a historical London to vivid live. A coming of age story of sorts, for all of its obsessive behaviours. After about the first half the book picks up at a hurtling pace, I couldn't believe some of the things I was reading. It seemed to take turns that I wasn't prepared for at all.
An accomplished debut novel with a mighty main character in Anna Jaccob, I found this to be a very interesting and intriguing book and I would read more by this author.
I am absolutely thrilled and excited to welcome Janet Ellis to the blog today, she has taken the time to visit the blog and answer some of my questions. Many thanks indeed Janet for your insightful answers and for being on Reflections of a Reader.
1. What inspired you to write The Butcher's Hook?
There have been several strands of inspiration , now all knotted up together. The idea of a girl-smart, individual and curious - being forced to live a sequestered life, with little company, few distractions and no stimulation suddenly being 'woken', had nagged at me for a while. I decided to set the book in Georgian London as I live in London, and love to look for remnants of that time beneath or beside its Victorian offspring . I realised I could marry the two themes - a modern-thinking girl in an attractive era. Then I got carried away by how my heroine might deal with obstacles and desires.
2. Do you have plans to write any further novels?
I do. Although when I finished The Butcher's Hook I didn't have any plans for a sequel, now I rather think Anne hasn't quite gone away yet. I can still hear her voice. She's not in the next book, though. It's set in the Seventies. Historical times for some, I know!
3. What is your writing routine?
I try and write every day, but I'm not strict about when or how much. Admitting I could write a book even if I didn't set myself goals or a follow a timetable is one of the many (many) reasons that this book got finished where others had languished, and that thinking and example has set a pattern for writing the next one.
4. What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love walking. We're lucky to be near the River Thames and I can't imagine tiring of walking along the towpath. But I like to walk everywhere, if I can, anyway. When my children were little, I was always getting them in and out of the car, now I'm shocked by how short some of the distances I drove are. And you really see places on foot, don't you? I love cooking... and eating. There's quite a bit of food in The Butcher's Hook and I guess thats' why. And have you seen my list of grandchildren? They're all boys, aged between 11 and four months. They live close by so I see them whenever I can.
5. What book would you recommend to other people or give as a gift?
I can't imagine anyone not enjoying Any Human Heart by William Boyd. In fact, if you don't like it we might have to rethink our friendship.... Do read Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos, too- it's a long way from the film and very clever and funny. Then, if you can balance another book on the pile, can I pop Wonder by RJ Palacio on top, please...whatever age you are , this'll move you.
About the Author:
Janet Ellis Trained as an actress at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She is best known for presenting Blue Peter and contributes to numerous radio and TV programmes. She recently graduated from the Curtis Brown creative writing school.
The Butcher's Hook is her first novel. She can be found on Twitter @missjanetellis.
Thanks for reading and please do check out the other stops on the tour, there are some great Q & A's and more throughout this week.