Book - 2000
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Set in London and Monmouth in the late 1700s, this is an extraordinary novel about Mary Saunders, the young daughter of a poor seamstress. Mary hungers greedily for fine clothes and ribbons, as people of her class do for food and warmth. It's a hunger that lures her into prostitution at the age of thirteen. Mary is thrown out by her distraught mother when she gets pregnant and almost dies on the dangerous streets of London. Her saviour is Doll - a prostitute. Mary roams London freely with Doll, selling her body to all manner of 'cullies', dressed whorishly in colourful, gaudy dresses with a painted red smile.

Faced with bad debts and threats upon her life she eventually flees to Monmouth, her mother's hometown, where she attempts to start a new life as a maid in Mrs Jones's house. But Mary soon discovers that she can't escape her past and just how dearly people like her pay for yearnings not fitting to their class in society...

Publisher: London : Virago, 2000
ISBN: 9781860498282
Branch Call Number: DON
Characteristics: 422 p. ;,21 cm


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A very grim read, on par with any Dickens novel. Excellent writing but no comic relief. Exquisite detail of the stench and filth of life for the poor in the 18th century.

xaipe Sep 03, 2012

One of the most memorable books I have ever read.

JanieHH Aug 02, 2012

One of my favourite books by Emma Donoghue and I have read everything she has written. I love the way she has taken a true story and brought it to life. The contrast of life in London to that of the countryside is remarkable. The characters will stay with you for quite some time.

May 17, 2011

I absolutely loved this book, I couldn't stop thinking about it even after I finished it. I found it very interesting to get a perspective on how woman felt and lived in the 1700's and how hard it was to be different. This is a classic story of what happens when a child is thrown out on the streets..except it was over 200 years ago. Emma Donoghue is definitely one of my new favorite authors!!

Apr 27, 2011

Emma Donoghue's Slammerkin is a challenging but extremely worthwhile read. The novel is very loosely framed around a few real events, but can hardly be said to be "based on a true story." That being said, Donoghue manages to capture the gritty reality faced by many women of the time, as well as the putrid but fascinating feel of London contrasted with the safe but slow feel of the English/Welsh countryside.

Donoghue challenges us in many ways during this read. The main character's trivialization of the lewd acts she is forced to perform to get by stand in stark contrast to her near-worship of all external finery (linens, dresses, shoes, etc.) and stands as a commentary on how Western society ranks the things it values, specifically concerning the acquisition of goods above all. Additionally, Donaghue's continued theme of the importance of clothing in perceived and actual social standing was illuminating, as it is often the only way we have of differentiating master from servant.

I would highly recommend this book, especially as a book club or group read. The theme of working girl dissatisfied with her place in the world and willing to do whatever it takes to rise will resonate with most modern audiences, and will keep them sympathetic and engaged right to the final page.

Nov 10, 2006

Though it took me about four years to get around to reading this novel, I don't recommend the rest of you wait that long. But be prepared, Emma Donohue is a strong writer, writing about a difficult life in a difficult, hard time, and she doesn't pretty up the life a prostitute in 18th century England leads. It seems like she took a vision journey herself, back in time, and came back and wrote what she saw, the atmosphere she renders is that riveting. A fascinating, gripping novel.

Dec 20, 2001

Enter the world of a poor London girl who has fallen from grace because she coveted a red ribbon in an alley in 1670''s London. Her mother throws her out of her only home to fend for herself at 14. Bewildered she is taken in by a prostitute and then becomes one herself in order to pay the rent on a rat infested boarding house. In order to escape the life, Mary runs away to Monmouth and is taken in by her mother''s best friend. She cannot handle the better life and soon finds herself in a situation that seems to have only one ending: death. Based on a true story, this book will lead you on an unforgettable tour of the real life of the common person in England during this harsh period of history.


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Apr 27, 2011

"They walked on a little way. Mary stooped to read an epitaph so old its letters were almost worn away.
'We all must die, there is no doubt;
Your glass is running--mine is out.'"

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