Jubilation Lee's Reviews > The Cater Street Hangman

The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry
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's review
Oct 02, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: a-damn-dim-candle, whodunit, ust-ftw, read-in-2011, but-wait-theres-more
Read from September 22 to October 02, 2011

In further adventures of Monica Reading Mysteries, I decided to give Cater Street Hangman a try. Final thoughts... are mixed. Certainly it was well written. You could practically see the flickering gaslights and smell the, um, horse manure? Is that what one would smell on a traditional Victorian street? And there are perky little pickpockets, and fire-and-brimstone-spewing vicars, and vicious grandmothers, and gentlemen’s clubs, and endless cups of tea. Anyway, it all seems very realistic, right down to the disparity between the sexes, which brings me to my main problem with the book.

I realize that we as readers will be looking at the relationships and statuses of men and women and think, "Women, right? So downtrodden!" But would the characters be thinking this? When Emily’s beau comments that he loathes a woman who makes "an exhibition of herself," would Emily really privately think that "it was no worse for a woman than for a man, but that was not the way society saw it, and she knew the rules well enough to play by them, and too well to imagine one could break them and still win"? When Charlotte is told that "It is quite different for men! It is perfectly—acceptable for a gentleman to frequent places that a woman of good moral character would not go to. We all have to accept these things," would she really be loathe to accept any such thing at all? Would there be discussions of how young women have sexual appetites just like men, and of the unfair standards that exist between the sexes ("Men are always saying it is we who are the weaker ones, or is that only physical? Are we supposed to be morally stronger?"), and of endless secret female hungers and dreams? Clearly, I agree with all this, but given that these are traditional Victorian women raised in a household where their father "will not have them distressed," where news of the outside world is limited and where the company they keep is strictly proper, all these churning rebellious thoughts seemed unlikely even coming from Charlotte (who reads the newspaper in secret, aha), let alone from the other female characters.

But moving on.

The ending, while dramatic and exactly like something out of Scream (assuming that Scream had a scene that took place in a kitchen or perhaps the home of a fromagier), was both hurried and very, very strange. It wasn’t just that within twenty pages, not one but two daughters were affianced—the younger (view spoiler) and the older (view spoiler). Whatever, I can ignore that, maybe Victorian women who are clearly charged with their own sense of female empowerment move faster than one would expect. No, I was more confused by the murderer’s apparent (view spoiler), coupled with the way the darn thing just ended! Mid-sentence, for all intents and purposes! I don’t ask for much in my paperbacks, but (view spoiler) is for grad student art films, not for murder mysteries.

And while it did take me a solid twenty minutes to connect Juliet Hulme (Anne Perry’s original name) with the Juliet Hulme, it of course ended up being all I could think of, and accordingly I had to stare in horror at the murder scenes and think, "Why would you write this, given, you know, that it’s you?!"

Sorry, Anne Perry. Your past has colored my reading of your book, for good or ill.
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Reading Progress

09/24/2011 page 168
58.0% "I don't know, guys. Even thought Charlotte apparently wants to die of irritation every time she sees Pitt, but I sense that astonishingly, she's going to feel differently by the end of the book....."

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Miriam (new)

Miriam You might find The Pargiters intellectually interesting, because one of the themes is how difficult it would have been for women to even formulate questions about inequality, given the way they were brought up to think (or not think).

Jubilation Lee This is why you are my favorite! You are a recommending MACHINE!!

(I'll have to try to prep my brain ahead of time -- after several solid weeks of zombies and vampires and manga warriors, Virginia Woolf is going to be way out of my thinking league.)

message 3: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Haha, but no! she explains it you as you read!

Jubilation Lee Thank you Virginia Woolf for taking pity on your readers!!!!

message 5: by Miriam (new)

Miriam It's like she wrote her own spark notes.

Jubilation Lee Which... is actually pretty ballsy when you get right down to it. ;)

message 7: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Yeah, it's like, meta before meta. It starts with her giving a lecture about women's education, and then reading from a novel, and then the two start running together.

Jubilation Lee *And* she was an Abyssinian prince! If we could all only be so awesome....

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