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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Slammerkin by Emma Donaghue

The "heroine" (I use the term loosely) of this book is Mary Saunders, a teenage prostitute living in the slums of London, circa 18th century. Mary's defining characteristics are a fierce will to survive, a burning resentment of the miserable deadening poverty she was born to, and an unquenchable thirst for color and fine fabrics. While reading the book I was reminded of a cross between Moll Flanders and Sarah Waters' Fingersmith. Encountering a rough life on the streets, she becomes educated in how to survive, but the knowledge twists her in numerous ways, and her moral compass goes haywire. This is a compelling book, especially the first half; the descriptions are vivid and the plot pulls you in. It's well-written. At first you find yourself rooting for Mary, but eventually you feel pity for her and not much else. By the end I was simply hoping that somebody would stop her from victimizing others.

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