It’s London 1888, and Jack the Ripper is terrorizing the people of the city. Evelyn, a young woman disfigured by her dangerous work in a matchstick factory, who has nowhere to go, does not know what to make of her new position as a maid to the Elephant Man in the London Hospital. Evelyn wants to be locked away from the world, like he is, shut in from the filth and dangers of the streets. But in Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, she finds a gentle kindred who does not recoil from her and who understands her pain.
When the murders begin, however, Joseph and Evelyn are haunted nightly by the ghosts of the Ripper’s dead, setting Evelyn on a path to facing her fears and uncovering humanity’s worst nightmares.
Matthew Kirby was born in Utah, and grew up in Maryland, California, and Hawaii. As an undergraduate he majored in history, and then went on to pursue an M.S. in school psychology. For ten months out of the year he works with students, and during the rest of the year he writes. He and his wife currently live in northern Utah.
Omg! Yes, damnit!!!!! I needed a book to love!! (I’m purchasing a used hardback after this review)
I love John (The Elephant Man) so damn much. I didn’t read too much into the book, it just fit some qualifications for a challenge! Holy shit on a saltine cracker though!!! I listened to the audio through the library and I’m getting the Audible as well! The narrator had a wonderful voice and she did the characters so good, especially John 😫
So, this lady who is disfigured for reasons, gets a job taking care of John. Naturally, they become friends.
And, we have Jack the Ripper starting his killing spree!
And, we have ghosts!
So, we have some things to solve and such, shit, I can’t say any more or I’ll give it away!!
It’s awesome, more awesome, things happened, I cried. The end!
Fact and fiction are woven together in the infamous Whitechapel murders, ghosts, and the peculiar case of London Hospital's The Elephant Man, all from the perspective of a girl who has been severely disfigured by phosphorous necrosis. This story doesn't shy away from the gruesome nature of the crimes nor the rough realities faced by a woman without position, or a man who was put on display as a sideshow attraction. And yet it is imbued with a transcendent awareness of human dignity, and the beauty of soul and intellect.
Writing is textured and sharp, yet exquisitely restrained, the setting is vivid, and the historical details are seamlessly integrated. (I had such a good time looking up various figures and events referenced in the story!) I hope this author writes more historical fiction, because he has a knack for storytelling, an ear for dialogue, and an empathy for his characters that gives readers the rare sense of being completely immersed in the world he created. I felt the same level of excitement when reading this book as I did when reading my first Marcus Sedgwick and Sarah Waters novels, and I don't say that lightly.
Review to come. If you liked certain elements of THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER or THIS MONSTROUS THING, you'll love this.
What a delightfully, creepy Halloween read. Jack the Ripper, the Elephant Man, the ghosts of 'the Rippers' victims haunting a hospital grounds. I loved this book. I saw a blurb on the book and it sounded intriguing so I looked for it at my library. I was shocked they only had the audio version - no print version, it's still on order. Lucky for me, I went with the audio.
Evelyn is a young woman who is horribly disfigured from her work in a match factory. She seeks recluse in a hospital where she wants to be a nurse. But due to her age and her disfigurement, she is instead given a job as maid to Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man. The two become fast friends and are frequently visited by the ghosts of Jack the Rippers aka "Leather Aprons's" victims. Each ghost wants or needs something before they can move on. These ghosts are draining the life from Joseph and Evelyn will do whatever it takes to save him. Even coming face-to-face with Jack the Ripper. So....if you want to find out who the Ripper was, check this one out. :-)
I see many books now that are a spin on a particular time in history. And this book does the same but it is wildly creative. I listened to book via audio and it was great. The narrator added to the overall atmosphere. I loved listening to this one of the terror in London that Jack the Ripper created with all the British accents and slang. I really do think the narration added so much to the overall atmosphere and I'm glad I did not have the print.
There is some gore in the book talking about what happened to the Rippers victims and that the bodies were on display for the general population to view for a mere few pence. There is no romance in this one, just pure macabre. Overall, I think this will end up in the top 5 of my books for the year. Great story, great audio, great Halloween read!
3.5 stars. There's a lot to love about this book, but there are one or two issues here that really took away from my desire to love this.
It's 1888, era of both Jack the Ripper and Joseph Merrick, known to history as the Elephant Man. Somehow, these two elements are blended together and the blend actually works. Evelyn is disfigured from working at a phosphorus plant, and she acquires a job working with Merrick as his maid.
This book focuses on the friendship between Evelyn and Merrick, which was very well-written. They bond partially over being ostracized from society due to their differences, and their dialogue is heart-wrenching. This friendship benefits greatly from the strength of their characters: while neither is quite as fleshed-out as I'd prefer, maybe, they're each just likable enough to hold my interest.
Unfortunately, I was not a fan of the conclusion at all, and it honestly kind of ruined the book for me. First of all, the mystery's ending is very anticlimactic. But it's also just an unsatisfying solution to this mystery in terms of the
Besides the anticlimactic ending, there was a lot I liked about this book. But altogether, just a few too many issues.
* I received a copy of this via my local bookstore. This does not impact my review in any way.
I had high hopes for this novel, but I was unprepared for how thoroughly it won me over. I was entranced.
As a historian, I'm very interested in the Whitechapel murders and their context in the East End of London, and the careful research in evidence in A Taste for Monsters satisfied me deeply. I've walked in the characters' footsteps at London Hospital, Spitalfields, and Whitechapel, and I delighted in the sharp detail Kirby brought to the story.
But there's so much more. So many times in historical novels -- especially YA novels -- the desire to have a plucky, gutsy heroine leads to all kinds of anachronistic behavior, dialog, etc. Not here. Evelyn is an outstanding heroine, a young woman disfigured by her dangerous work as a "matchstick girl" and struggling to find a means of supporting herself with dignity. Similarly, Kirby addresses Jack the Ripper in a most refreshing fashion, focusing not on following the monster who killed but instead on restoring and respecting the humanity of the women who were murdered.
This entire story is shot through not only with delicious Gothic atmosphere and genuine peril, but also with gentle, humane insight. Evelyn's work and friendship with Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, is a centerpiece of the story, and it's simply beautiful.
This one was very compelling, and quite addictive too. I really liked it. In fact, it's a definite favorite. So well told. Interesting, and a slightly eerie. It's like a beloved story, you haven't actually heard before. Well known and foreign at the same time. Wonderful, really. I literally couldn't bring myself to put it down.
i'm so sad that i won't be able to spend more time with these characters. i grew to love evelyn and mr merrick and i'm sad that i won't be seeing them anymore. this was a thrilling story about mystery and ghosts that had me captivated. the ending did feel a little rushed to me and everything resolved rather quickly. i feel that it would have been nice to have 50 more pages and slow the ending down a bit. otherwise, i enjoyed the story and the characters and i had a lot of fun with it :)
This book was terrific. It was new and fresh. A clever story set in Victorian England that was atmospheric and at times,bone chilling.The perfect fall/Halloween read. Most enjoyable and highly recommended.
A very nice take on Jack the Ripper and Elephant Man with a good female main character.
What a pleasant surprise! I quite enjoyed the writing and found the story dense enough to make it interesting both at a urban fantasy level and as historical fiction. Evelyn was likable and behaved in a realistic way, it was really nice to follow her while she struggled with her appearance and her relationships with Elephant Man and other characters. She was also brave and I enjoyed to discover the various ghosts with her and to see her try to solve the problems. If Jack the Ripper was only in the background, his murders were a good setting, nicely used by the author in a paranormal way. The frightened atmosphere was palpable and the mystery around the murders was pleasant. Elephant Man was an interesting character and I appreciated the historical way he was written, I learned plenty of things about him and had a look at Wikipedia to complete my knowledge, when I finished the book (they run some genetic tests on his bones to discover the origins of his dysmorphism). There were some good ideas with the rest of the cast, even if it wasn't really fleshed. The story flew easily, the read was interesting and compelling and I'm a bit sad it's a standalone. I'll check another book by the author for sure.
Do you ever just want to hug a book after you finish? Or just start it all over again because you don't want the story to end? Or start crying in the first chapter? Well this book did all of that for me. The mystery is great and the historical setting pitch perfect. But what really got and held my attention were the characters. They are all, even the side characters, so alive and vibrant and complex. More than that I learned things from them and about myself through them. It's the kind of special experience I have only had with a few books. My biggest issue is that I have to wait for it to be published so I can scream at other people about how awesome it is!
I was really excited to read this because I love stories about Jack the Ripper and the Victorian Era. But I also have never read anything about Joseph Merrick (The Elephant Man) before. Though I enjoyed this to an extent, it was very slow, almost too slow at times. The whole mystery of who Jack the Ripper is or in this book "The Leather Apron" who he was known as before JTR was so anti-climatic that I actually sighed with disappointment while reading the reveal. I'd recommend Stalking Jack the Ripper over this any damn day. I'm also glad that I got this ARC for free a couple of years ago because I would've been pretty pissed if I'd spent any $ on this lol
If Stefon from Saturday Night Live were doing this review, it would go something like this: This fall's hottest read is "A Taste for Monsters." It has everything. The Elephant Man. Ghosts. Jack the Ripper. The London Hospital. A gorilla. Mystery. A lesson in manners. Phossy Jaw disfigurement. And more.
Seriously though, I really hope people find their way to this book, which is perfect for the Halloween season. I didn't find it scary, although some parts about the Ripper's crimes are of course disturbing. It's actually charming, informative and thought-provoking.
Creepy book. I have always been a little obsessed with stories about Jack The Ripper aka Leather Apron. This seems to tell more of his victims who haunt Evenly Fallows and Mr. Merrick a Elephant Man and a woman who has a scar with her jaw. The victims come visit them and Mrs. FALLOWS decides she needs to save Mr.Merrick who becomes deathly ill shortly after the arrival of the third ghost. She sets out in hopes of finding anything to help these woman move on. She succeeds in her mission until the last ghost comes.
I can't tell you enough how much I enjoyed this book. A very different tale than what I have read.
While I was drawn to this story by the mention of Jack the Ripper, I definitely stayed for the characters. It's more of a personal story than it is a crime-solving mystery and the plot line concerning the killer was actually the weakest part of the novel and the conclusion didn't make any sense to me. But I loved how detailed and authentic the surroundings felt, I loved the main character, Evelyn, and her friendship with Mr Merrick. So I enjoyed this book a lot, it just could've been done even better, in my opinion.
This had horror/ghosts/mystery/friendship/kindness. I was quite surprised by all it had to offer. Setting is London in 1888. The infamous Elephant Man is hiding away his days in a hospital. Evelyn (a young girl disfigured from white phosphorus poisoning) attempts to hide away as well; by taking up position as a maid for the elephant man. Meanwhile a murderer is terrorizing the city and the victims come to haunt. This was a well written story, easy to read. It falls in the YA genre- although I feel it’s content is better suited for the older side of that (suggested for 16+).
In 1888, seventeen year old Evelyn works as a maid to Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, in London Hospital. Having been disfigured by the phosphorus used in her former matchstick factory job, she knows how Joseph feels and a friendship develops between them.
When Jack the Ripper begins terrorizing London, Evelyn and Joseph are haunted nightly by the ghosts of his victims. Joseph's health is dangerously affected by this, and Evelyn must find a way to stop the hauntings and give these victims peace.
This book was very well-written, with characters that I truly cared about. A real page-turner, with alot of heart. A highly recommended read.
Throwback to high school when Jack the Ripper was my special interest. ✌️
I would say my biggest criticism of this book was the bent towards infantilization of Joseph Merrick (the Elephant Man). While I certainly prefer that to prejudice or mistreatment, it still falls into its own category of ableism.
This was so good and I could hardly wait to dive back in to find out what would happen next! The mixture of real people and setting to tell what is ultimately Evelyn's story was very clever! I would highly recommend this and have already passed my copy on to my roommate.
Well. That was unexpected. I typically don't like horror - even kid horror, but this is fascinating. And sent me to the internet to research the period and the characters. This was nearly a five star book for me, if it hadn't been for one detail, but overall an intensely good read.
A quick (spoiler free) summary is that the story follows Miss Evelynn Fallow mostly, and the second most occurring character is John Merrick. It takes place in 1888 during the Jack the Ripper Murders, at the time called Leather Apron. Leather Aprons victims haunt Mr. Merrick and he and Miss Fallow attempt to put the souls at rest. Nothing spoilery there, I promise. :)
Three Good Things. 1) The timeliness of the novel. Everything from description to the speech, including slang, was timed to the proper period. Everything felt very authentic.
2) Ballance between plot and characters. We were given plenty of back story for our cast, but not all at once. It was split pretty evenly with continuing the plotline of the story.
3)Historical accuracy. There are plenty of small details that can easily be overlooked, but if you do happen to catch them, they add an extra layer of character and world building that is not only entertaining but historically accurate. It's clear the Kirby did his research and cared to get things right.
Three "Bad" Things. 1) Travel descriptions We do travel a bit around Whitechapel and the neighboring cities, and the means left available were accurate, however, the descriptions of travel were as if we were being given directions. A bit too specific for my taste. The story lulled a little bit during some, not all, of these scenes but not enough to put someone to sleep.
2) Self-image. Miss Fallow has a very serious issue with self-esteem. I can understand its necessity in the big picture of the story, but I feel like it was reinforced one or two too many times. "I get it. She doesn't think well of herself, let's keep the story moving." But that opinion might be because I only had the chance to read this very late at night and was usually very tired while reading, and a bit impatient as a whole.
3) Convenient wrapup. One particular piece of the story, I felt, didn't need to have a definitive ending. I can see why it was put in the story, but the timing of it seemed to split up what I was really into. Perhaps if it was done differently I might have enjoyed it more.
Ratings: Plot: Five Stars Characters: Four and a half Stars. Setting: Five Stars.
A Taste for Monsters is filled with fascinating subjects - Jack the Ripper and his victims, The Elephant Man, and the devastating results of phosphorus necrosis (don’t Google Image it unless you want to vomit). Evelyn’s life has been tragic. After becoming orphaned, she worked at a matchstick factory where she was stricken with phosphorus necrosis as a result of handling white phosphorous. Her jawbone has deteriorated, she is in frequent pain, and her face is permanently disfigured. Desperate to leave her life on the streets and start a new life for herself, Evelyn goes to the hospital in Whitechapel to inquire about work. The headmistress pities Evelyn’s circumstances and is impressed by her boldness. She has the perfect position for Evelyn - to be a maid to The Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick. Although terrified at first, Evelyn quickly sees Mr. Merrick to be a kind, sweet, gentle, and impeccably mannered soul. They become fast friends. Their bond is strengthened when Jack the Ripper (Leather Apron) begins his reign of terror - the ghosts of his victims visit Mr. Merrick every night. With Mr. Merrick being mostly confined to his bed, it is up to Evelyn to discover why Leather Apron’s victims are unable to rest in peace. As the ghosts begin to literally drain the energy (and life) from Mr. Merrick, Evelyn’s success is a matter of life and death. It is then the book turns into a bit of a mystery, with Evelyn and Mr. Merrick’s friend, Charles, traveling about London, learning the details of the lives of Ripper’s victims. All of these experiences change Evelyn. She learns about kindness, treachery, betrayal, and the power of education. She learns that the power to change her destiny lies within herself, not others’ perceptions of her. It is a beautiful story of contrasts - brilliant light and absolute darkness. This is definitely one of those stories that will have adults and teens alike Googling like crazy. So much history to discover!
Not bad, Mr. Kirby, not bad...Though, admittedly (and as I suspect was the point) the relationship between Evelyn and Mr. Merrick is much more engaging than the Jack the Ripper angle which fades into more of a side plot, really. Though I found the most climactic portion of the book to be something of a let-down, I did enjoy watching Evelyn handle the ghosts and help them find peace--those smaller mysteries and the focus on restoring their humanity, again, taking precedence for me over discovering who Jack the Ripper was. I think in some ways I would have preferred the book if that mystery was left unsolved as it has been historically, and the third act was focused more on Evelyn and Merrick.
Overall, however, it IS a decent read. Perfect if you're the sort of person who does not like to read scary things but want something a little chilling for Spooktober. Personally, I quite like terrifying things, so this one would get three out of five pumpkins on the chill-scale (mainly because there is some detail as to how one of the victims is murdered, which is gruesome, as well as some self-mutilation).
I just couldn't finish this. I've been trying to make my way through the 2018 Beehive Awards, and they hadn't let me down so far. This was terrible. I made it halfway and life is just too short for terrible books.
As a YA book, it would require a LOT of background knowledge. Right off the bat, the author throws around Victorian slang, such as calling prostitutes "ladybirds" and the protagonist is called "a penn'orth o' treacle" as a sarcastic way of saying, "you're a real treat." Women are called "jam" ... It's just a lot... and I think YA readers would be put off by how much they don't understand.
The style was also bothersome. It felt like Kirby was desperately trying to emulate the great writers of suspense, like Robert Louis Stevenson or Mary Shelley. In a YA novel, it comes across as dry, lacking the necessary rich detail, pretentious, and BORING. Yes. The victims of Jack the Ripper, haunting Joseph Merrick (aka The Elephant Man), was unbelievably boring. The protagonist muses that these spirits must be drawn to Merrick because he is "generally enamored with their sex." No. Just no.
3.5 STARS....Okay, this story has both Jack the Ripper and The Elephant Man in it. Evelyn is trying to hide from the world and gets a job as a maid for Mr. Merrick (The Elephant Man). They become friends and when killings start happening, the ghosts of the women come visit them. Evelyn and Mr. Merrick try to figure out how to help the ghosts. As more ghosts come though, it seems they are sucking the life out of Mr. Merrick. Even though Evelyn doesn't want to go out into London, she goes out to try to save her friend. Evelyn was a strong character even though she didn't think so herself. Mr. Merrick was a kind, gentle, loving soul who you wished didn't have to go through what he did. I thought the identity of Jack the Ripper was a bit over the top to say the least. But, this book was about friendship, love, forgiveness, and finding out who you truly are.
Interesting book. My library did a "blind date with a book" and this is the one I unwrapped. Not one I would have chosen on my own, as the topic was a bit out of my preference. It was well-written and intriguing, though, and once I began, I wanted to find out the end. Not my favorite book ever, but it wasn't a waste of time. I enjoyed the historical aspect, too.
Читается, в целом легко. Описания у автора очень живые. И настолько подробные, что поначалу у читателя описания того же Человека-слона вызывают такое же сильное отвращение, как у Эвелин. Но постепенно девушка привыкает к Джозефу и проникается к нему уважением, и мы, соответственно, тоже. За это нужно отдать автору должное, он, можно сказать, дал нам почувствовать самим то, что чувствовала его главная героиня. Немного своеобразная, но хорошая книга. Мне понравился стиль автора, понравились описанные им персонажи. Конечно, Джозефа было описать проще, чем Эвелин, так как автор взял за основу реальную историю реального человека, а также явно воспользовался идеями фильма Дэвида Линча о Джозефе Меррике – «Человек-слон». Но и тут автор постарался: герой получился очень живым. Несмотря на подробно описанное уродство героя (плюс я смотрела «Человек-слон» и видела реальные фотографии, мне не трудно было представить Джозефа), автору очень тонко удалось передать доброту, наивность и воспитанность мужчины, которого тяжелая жизнь не сломила до самого конца. Я, как и Эвелин, прониклась к нему уважением и даже немного любовью. Эвелин сначала меня напугала. В первых же строчках книги она знатно нагрубила проститутке, и я испугалась, что книга вся будет в таком стиле. Но, слава Богу, Эвелин оказалась вполне воспитанной и образованной девушкой, которой просто не повезло и пришлось научиться обращаться со всяким отребьем, чтобы выжить среди него. И за это тоже отдаю автору должное: прописана героиня отлично. Ее способность перевоплощаться впечатляет. При этом у читателя нет ощущения, что у нее раздвоение личности. В общем, что касается героев, тут все весьма неплохо. Даже очень и очень хорошо. А вот что касается основного сюжета (призраки, маньяки), а также финала книги, тут все не так радужно. Очень своеобразная и смелая интерпретация историй и жертв Джека-потрошителя. И, вроде как, все не так уж и плохо… Но раскрытие личности маньяка и расправа над ним была крайне внезапной, а главное – очень быстрой. Такой поворот сюжета меня удивил и не порадовал. Создавалось впечатление, что автору уже пора было завязывать с книгой и сдавать ее по срокам, и он быстрее-быстрее все закончил. Что касается призраков… Эта сюжетная линия достаточно интересная (хоть и неожиданная). И поиски героиней вещей, которые упокоят духов, мне тоже понравились. Тем не менее, я так и не поняла, а автор так и не объяснил, почему же духи приходили в комнату Меррика, если им нужна была Эвелин? Она же с самого начала там присутствовала далеко не всегда. Это как-то странно и немного глупо. Но в остальном читать было интересно. Я вообще люблю такие «готичные» истории про Лондон XIX века, особенно детективы. В целом, мне понравилось. Были некоторые недочеты. И повествование местами было несколько вялотекущим. Но в основном в книге мне встретились плюсы, а не минусы, поэтому впечатление от нее осталось хорошее.
Evelyn heads to a hospital in the East End of London not long before the Jack the Ripper killings begin. She is hoping to find employment as a nurse; instead, she is offered a position is a maid to Joseph Merrick, who resides at the hospital. Merrick is more well-known as “the Elephant Man”. Once the Ripper killings begin, Evelyn must help Mr. Merrick deal with the ghosts that are showing up nightly.
I enjoyed this. It’s YA, and I would have liked to have an author’s note. It seems to me that the information about the Ripper killings and his victims was pretty factual, but this is the first I’ve read about Merrick and would like to know more about him. I expect that him living in the hospital and not going out is probably pretty accurate. But, I don’t really know. I did enjoy this story, though. Evelyn was also coming to terms with her facial disfigurement, from “phossy jaw” at her former workplace and preferred to stay inside the hospital herself.
I really enjoyed this book. I liked how they told the story through Evelyn, a woman who has scars on her face from a factory she worked in who works for the Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick. Throughout the story you can see them both helping each other get over their fears and views of themselves. I thought it was really special that it wasn't just Evelyn helping Joseph, but also Joseph helping Evelyn.
I also really liked the ghosts that came to haunt them and how they were all Jack the Ripper's victims. That was interesting to me.
The end, while it was very cliche and seemed a bit rushed, I looked over this to give this book 5 stars. I was pulled into the book from the very beginning and I enjoyed it so much!