Jennifer's Reviews > Slammerkin

Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue
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's review
Jan 18, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, historical-fiction, owned
Read from January 03 to 07, 2011

I spied this paperback in the for sale section at the Mecosta Library, and immediately claimed it for my own. I had fallen in love with Donaghue's short story collection The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits, and also enjoyed her historical novel, Life Mask.

Well, Slammerkin is also a historical novel, set in a similar time period, the 1760s. And it is also based off of the life of a real woman, though this time one whom about not much is known. And also, as seems to be the theme of Donaghue's work, it is the story of a woman crushed for wanting more than the circumstances she was born into would allow.

In this particular, Mary is born into a London family with little means, yet she lusts after fine clothing and bright colors, while disdaining the life of service and toil that seems destined to be her lot. Her mother wishes to train her up as a seamstress to help in her work, but when Mary ends up pregnant after a ribbon vendor rapes her "in exchange" for a ribbon, even that unwanted door is closed to her.

Slammerkin is often a difficult read. Many times it seems that Mary has the opportunity to lift herself out of the gutter, to make some sort of life for herself, but she destroys most of these chances by railing against the limited station in life she's allowed, by always grasping for more.

Even though the book begins with Mary in jail, her eventual arrival there is made no less bitter by this bit of foreknowledge.

Despite the pain, I would still highly recommend this novel. It remains more readable than Life Mask, and though I'd still recommend The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits as an introduction to Donaghue, this would be a good next read.

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