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The Fair Fight

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,737 ratings  ·  533 reviews
For fans of Sarah Waters and The Crimson Petal and the White, a vibrant tale of female boxers and their scheming patrons in 18th-century Bristol.

Some call the prize ring a nursery for vice . . .

Born into a brothel, Ruth's future looks bleak until she catches the eye of Mr. Dryer. A rich Bristol merchant and enthusiast of the ring, he trains gutsy Ruth as a puglist. Soon sh
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published August 28th 2014 by WEIDENFELD NICOLSON
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Average rating 3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,737 ratings  ·  533 reviews

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Apr 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
as a huge sarah waters fan, i feel comfortable declaring that any comparisons between this book and the excellent writing of waters are completely earned.

like waters, freeman's preoccupation is with the lives of women in a society which affords them few opportunities or diversions, and only the most sordid paths towards financial independence.

this takes place in georgian england, and tracks the twisting connections between ruth; a woman born to a brothel-owner who becomes a pugilist at the ago
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lady pugs; gentlefolk; bruisers and brawlers
Recommended to Jessica by: benjy


In fact, I just climbed out of my bed late at night due to intrusive, spinning thoughts about how great this book was, and as it seems I can't sleep from the excitement, hopefully writing this will help. I got this out of the library but now that I'm done I think I'd better buy my own copy, not so much because I need to own it as because I should give the lovely and talented Anna Freeman some money. She's almost certainly a wonderful person and de
May 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is classed as historical Fiction which is a genre I do actually tend to enjoy a lot, I just don't often have time to get around to it or feel in the mood for it. However, despite all that being said when I heard that not only was this a book a lot of people I know and trust seemed to love, but it was also a debut, I wanted to pick it up and try it out.

I went into this book not knowing much about it really, and I think that that is probably the best way to enter it. It's an Edwardian En
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I loved this book. I just loved it. The awesome is just one layer upon another: the plot is fascinating, the characters intriguing, the writing spectacular, the author's story amazing.

Shamefully, I didn't pen my thoughts back in February when I finished this, because I was just back to work from maternity leave and feeling even more sleep-lost and fuzzy-minded than I am now. But ten months later, I'm still obsessed with this book, and I hope I can convey enough of what was brilliant to entice so
Book Riot Community
Ruth is born in a brothel in Victorian England and makes her way in life by bare-knuckle boxing. Charlotte is born to money and status, but her existence is a total ruin. Their paths converge and they must fight- often literally- against the men who would rule them and decide their fates. This is the ballsiest book I’ve read in a long time, and I inhaled all 480 pages in a sitting (a long sitting, but an engrossing one). It’s brash and brave and unflinching- a violently satisfying read drawn as ...more
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

“I’d like to say that my beginnings were humble, but they weren’t beginnings, because I never really left them but for a short while."

The Fair Fight is told from three separate points of view that details the way of life for three very different individuals in diverse social classes in 18th century Bristol. We’re first given Ruth’s tale which starts this book off with a bang. Born in a brothel, Ruth never had any aspirations of ever rising her station until one day s
The book blurb from the back cover of the book says this is the story of two women from different circumstances and how they profoundly change each other's lives when they meet. But the two women don't meet until we are far into the story, though one does have an effect on the other before they are introduced, the description only tells part of the story.

There are three narrators each telling this story from their own point of view; Ruth, born to the heartless madam of a brothel, at ten years ol
Helene Jeppesen
Jun 28, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book was not for me, which is sad because I know of a lot of people who really liked it. However, I got off to a wrong start as I didn't really get on with the very first chapter. I understood what was going on, but I felt like it was very confusing and I couldn't really connect with Ruth.
I was happy to see that the next chapter followed another person's perspective - a person that I actually liked reading about and that actually kept my attention. This was the part of the book that I ende
Definitely one of the best, if not the best novel I've read this year so far. ...more
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book - it is set in 18th-century Bristol and begins with the story of Ruth who is born in a brothel and upon meeting Mr Dryer is set to prize-fighting in local pubs and fairs as she tries to win her freedom.

Told through multiple points of view we get Ruth's story depicting what it's like to be poor and powerless; George's story who is a childhood friend of Mr Dryer and although is not poor is a hopeless gambler and cad who makes his way through life using others; and Ch
Maya Panika
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
'It seemed so odd - and brilliant - that women were boxing on stage at the same time that other ladies were fanning themselves and embroidering...'
It's easy to see how this won the Tibor Jones Page-turner award in 2013; if nothing else (and it is much besides), The Fair Fight is a page-turner; slow to start (George in his boarding school is a chapter to be endured for the sake of the story, rather than enjoyed), it took a while for me to get completely absorbed in this odd tale of eighteenth cen
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm doing something I haven't done before, give 5 stars to a book I feel is not perfect and had some structural flaws. The writing is too good, the characters too well drawn, the period so well captured, and the story too unique to not give the author her due.

A fabulous debut, centered around two main characters from different classes in the 18th century. One raised in a brothel, one in a wealthy household, but both are outsiders due to their physical appearances and their subservience to the me
A fantastic, debut historical novel about a female pugilist (prize fighter) raised in a brothel and the unlikely friendship she forms with an upper-class woman. The horrifying examination of living conditions and social stratification in late 18th century England never overshadows a plot that one review calls "a ripping good yarn."

The point-of-view shifts between pugilist Ruth, lady Charlotte, and George, a handsome young friend of Charlotte's brother. There's quite a bit of overlap with the ch
MaryannC. Book Freak
I can understand the mixed bag of reviews for this. It was exciting at times, compelling and often times brutal, I actually flinched when I read some of the descriptions of the fights especially with women fighting off beefy brutes in a ring. It was bawdy and sometimes lewd. I did like the way the stories of each person intersected with one another. I was oftentimes frustrated with George's back and forth yearning for Charlotte, then her brother, what gives? But, yes he was clearly a confused in ...more
2019 READING WOMEN Challenge
Task #10. A book about a woman athlete

This might be a bit of a stretch for this challenge, but ladies training one another and fighting chaps in the ring? I’ll flipping take it!

The one thing I did not like about this, though, was how the gay character was portrayed: this is the first time I come across such a vicious, downright nasty character, where to love is to possess and basically destroy all else.
Tara Chevrestt
I thought this was going to be about ladies boxing in 18th-century England. While it contains some boxing amongst females, only a very small amount of the story actually focuses on the subject. Most of the story seems to center around a theme of addiction and dependency. Gambling addiction. Alcohol addiction. Dependency on both the mentioned vices and on other people. Laziness--unwillingness to make do for oneself--seems to be another theme as it's common amongst almost all the characters.

Ruth i
Well this one is definitely making my favorite books of 2015 list. It has everything a person could wish for in a book: Female pugilists! Gambling dens! Orphans growing up in brothels! Handsome fops! Ladies in corsets! Scoundrels everywhere! As a huge Jane Austen fan, it was really fun to read something taking place during the same time period in a completely different context, something that’s not afraid to delve into the seedy underbelly of English society.

The three main characters in this sto
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, fiction

Actually 4.5/5

The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman tells the tale of a part of eighteenth century Britain I had no previous knowledge of, woman pugilists and their patrons, and as a fan of historical fiction, I could not pass up the opportunity to read The Fair Fight, which is set to release in April 2015. Anna Freeman takes the reader through the class structure of England from manor homes to brothels, and the struggle for women to survive, told in a three person narrative, this was a difficult book
Sarah Lillian Books
What an interesting read.. The beginning I really didn't like, mostly because of the format than the content. The format was less annoying for the second half of the book and was able to enjoy it a bit. I didn't really see the need for the male perspective, I was almost compelled to skip over his part because I didn't care for it.

The women of the book are what made this book a 3 star. Ruth was strong and almost felt other-worldly because of her up bringing when interacting with other characters

I loved this book. Such rich detail and who doesn't want to read a book about girls beating the crap out of each other?! This historical fiction look at women's boxing was superb. I normally wouldn't be interested in a sports book, but this one was not like other's I have read.
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
this was just *chef's kiss* historical fiction ...more
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"there was a city full of people not so very far away, all of them living different lives, and all of them as real as i. i had never before understood how many different paths there were to take in this life. it was as if at that moment i looked up and realised that for years i had had my eyes on my lap.

i was not entirely comfortable with this new view of things. have you ever half frozen your feet and then held them before a fire, to watch the blue skin blush and grow pink? the flesh screams as
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-read
4.25 stars. An extremely well researched and brilliantly written historical novel with complex characters and multiple plots. I would have given this book five stars if it weren’t too draggy. Overall, a truly enjoyable read. :)
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, victorians
After a very strange and unusual two weeks during which I couldn’t seem to get into a book, finally I’ve remembered how to read. Goodreads recommended me ‘The Fair Fight’ based on something else I’d read, quite possibly Golden Hill. For once, the algorithms that recommended me Extraordinary Chickens because I’m reading Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality came up with a sensible suggestion. I enjoyed this novel immensely, as it combines a beautifully evoked la ...more
Stevie Carroll
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Previously reviewed on The Good, the Bad and the Unread:

Every so often I come across a really different sort of historical novel, and this is one of them. Of course, ‘different’ doesn’t always equate to well-written or enjoyable, but I’m pleased to report that The Fair Fight stands up very well on both counts, although explaining the plot of such a complex, well-populated novel isn’t necessarily as easy as just telling readers to rush out and experience the story for themselves. However, I shall
Jun 30, 2014 rated it liked it
just seemed so odd – and brilliant – that women were boxing on stage at the same time that other ladies were fanning themselves and embroidering.”

Those words - from Horrible Histories - inspired Anna Freeman to write a colourful and compelling debut novel.

It's set in Bristol in 1799, and it moves between backstreets, brothels and grand houses of the city, as it weaves an elaborate tale of fighters, entrepreneurs, gamblers and spectators, all caught up in the world of boxing.

At the centre of the
**Disclaimer: I received a free ARC from Riverhead Books via Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

I had high hopes for this book since so many others rated it with 4 & 5 stars. I entered the ring thinking that this book would be a barnburner...intense, exciting, a real nail biter like a good boxing match. fell short.

I feel as though I've been sucker punched by other reviewers. Or as if I'm the dope on a rope...exhausted from turning pages weighed down with hea
Cupcakes & Machetes
DNF at page 166.

I did something I don't usually do. When I could not decide early on, whether to continue, I went and read some reviews on the book. A good percentage of them said that Ruth's chapters were the best. I was currently reading Ruth's POV and was not impressed. As I was about to give in, I came upon a George chapter, it was a little more interesting. This lead me to try a chapter by Charlotte. Again, a bit more interesting. But ultimately, a little bit more interesting plus a little
Kat (Lost in Neverland)

For a story I initially thought would be mainly about badass boxing women, there are sure a lot of chapters dedicated to annoying, sexist men sitting around talking about sexist things.
The last 100 pages made up for that, though. Unfortunately, there's also a lack of actual 'fighting' going on, maybe three total, two 'official' ones.
Alice Lippart
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
A great and layered historical fiction novel. Especially loved the female characters.
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Anna Freeman is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University as well as a multiple slam-winning performance poet who has appeared at festivals across Britain including Latitude and Glastonbury. She lives in Bristol. The Fair Fight is her first novel.

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