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Confessions of the Fox

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  714 ratings  ·  190 reviews
Set in the eighteenth century London underworld, this bawdy, genre-bending novel reimagines the life of thief and jailbreaker Jack Sheppard to tell a profound story about gender, love, and liberation.
Recently jilted and increasingly unhinged, Dr. Voth throws himself into his work, obsessively researching the life of Jack Sheppard, a legendary eighteenth century thief. N
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published June 26th 2018 by One World
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3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  714 ratings  ·  190 reviews

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Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical-fic, lgbtq
Jack sheppard.jpg
(Jack Sheppard in Newgate Prison, artist unknown)

I was really excited to get this novel, thinking it sounded similar to Sarah Waters' books and it's been awhile since she's published anything. Confessions of the Fox, rather than reading like a Sarah Waters novel, is much more in line with J.J. Abrams' S.. It is a story within a story, and I'm not very fond of those. Even though I usually have more than one book I'm reading at a time, I still don't want to have two stories reading simultaneously
Jessica Woodbury
Historical fiction tends to be very cis, straight, and white. There are a few authors out there intent on changing that and Jordy Rosenberg's new novel is one of the most ambitious ones yet. It was pitched to me as Sarah Waters meets Vladimir Nabokov and I was like, "Sign me the hell up!" and it's a surprisingly good pitch. The story is from a discovered manuscript, full of thievery and action and lots of sex; and there is also a Pale-Fire-esque second narrative that plays out entirely through f ...more
Jack Sheppard is a real historical figure, 'a notorious English thief and gaol-breaker of early 18th-century London'. In Confessions of the Fox, Professor R. Voth turns up a hitherto-undiscovered biography of Sheppard – allegedly an authentic original – at a university book sale, and sets about investigating and annotating it. What makes this story distinctive is that Voth is a trans man, and as he pores over the manuscript, he realises Jack is trans too. The manuscript tells of Jack's crimes, h ...more
Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
This review can also be found on my blog!

CW: racism, sex work, graphic sex scenes, surgery, and gender dysphoria

All at once, this book was made for me but also not. It was a hard book for me to read and rate. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it, so welcome to me rambling about the book.

While reading this, I was under a lot of stress. (Still am stressed but a lot less than I was.) When I’m stressed, I don’t always pay attention to books I’m reading. I just, well, can’t focus. And this bo
What is this? Well, a damn hard book to review, to start. On one level we have what is presented as the 'recently discovered autobiography' of Jack Sheppard, real-life petty thief and escapee from jail in early 1700s London. Sheppard lived fast and died young, then proceeded to become an enormously famous figure in English folklore, probably most recognizable today as the inspiration for "The Ballad of Mack the Knife" in The Threepenny Opera. But Confessions of the Fox is in fact a novel, and th ...more
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who love books with many, many, copious-many footnotes.
Confessions of the Fox has a fascinating premise: a recently heart-broken professor has uncovered and is annotating a long-lost manuscript that exposes the gender-defying true story about two notorious thieves who were lovers in 18th-century London.

Unfortunately, this was just an overly tedious read for me. The seemingly never-ending footnotes acted as a third (or fourth?) plot line, and the back and forth between the notes and the story made it impossible to get immersed at all in any story wh
An experimental alternate-history anti-colonial prison-abolitionist hella-queer (and very sexy) feminist trans novel. It's thrilling to watch Rosenberg at play. Among other things (form (the interaction of the 'old' and new texts provides not just a critical framework but an affective one, too) and character (I love Jack and Bess separately, and together)), I was wowed by what seems like pyrotechnic linguistic skill -- and invention -- and a tightly sprung, magnificently orchestrated plot. Whew! ...more
This is a queering and de-whiting of the historical legend of Jack Sheppard, the master gaolbreaker, thief, and carpenter of 1720’s London. Wait, it’s the framing narrative of the academic who finds and edits Sheppard’s journal. No, actually it’s the hot romantic account of Jack and his more-than-lover Bess as well as the erotic and professional wanderings of the academic. And also, it’s a monstrous ride down the Thames in a little boat, where maybe you can hear Moll Flanders, Oroonoko, Tom Jone ...more
Bogi Takács
This was not for me, and for different reasons than I'd expected. Review coming soon IY"H. Sorry it took me such a long time to read, I would have DNFed were it not for the ARC and the fact that several people asked me for my opinion of the book.

Here is my review:
Over 1.5k words.

Source of the book: Print ARC from the publisher
Valerie Best
Recently dumped college professor, Dr. Voth, discovers the diaries of 18th century master thief Jack Sheppard. The novel is Dr. Voth’s painstaking transcription of the manuscript and their own increasingly frantic personal footnotes.

So, ultimately, what you have is two stories, kind of cunningly layered over each other.
I’ll be honest, it felt like a little too much work at first, but, I’m a sucker for footnotes, and, by the end, I was into it.

Jack’s story is the one more extensively told. It’s
Taryn Pierson
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-release, fiction
If you’re into criminals with hearts of gold and also really enjoy scholarly research and footnotes, you will love this book. It’s two stories in one—the first is about Jack Sheppard, a thief in 1724 London, and the second is about the present-day professor who is transcribing Jack’s manuscript, told entirely through footnotes. The professor’s interest is piqued when he realizes that Jack was a trans man, which is something they share in common. Jack’s story is mesmerizing, his exploits and esca ...more
Amanda Van Parys
I don't know what to say about this book except it is a truly unique historical romp that is also connected to the present through footnotes. The subject material (past and present) was engaging, complex, and rang true. The organic unfolding of this story takes you through several layers of realization and was seriously a treat to read.
Morgan M. Page
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jordy Rosenberg's debut Confessions of the Fox is an immensely accomplished addition to the growing canon of Trans Lit. Following the story of a manuscript discovered in a University library sale that purports to be an authentic biography of the life of English folk hero and thief, Jack Sheppard, the novel moves back and forth between the manuscript and the notes made by its transcribed - a trans man academic. The manuscript provides strange new details of Sheppard's life, suggesting that he him ...more
Luke Tolvaj
I was lucky enough to win a copy of Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg.

Confessions of the Fox is a story within a story, converging over two very different timelines. The first story is the main bulk of the novel, while the second story takes place primarily in the footnotes. The two stories have unifying threads that connect in the shared theme of found family within resistance. As a trans man, I was really interested to read an own voices historical fantasy book about trans men consider
This book is an extremely niche bit of revolutionary fun. I strongly recommend this book for readers with familiarity with either of the following: major trends in humanities scholarship (especially the contradictions of teaching literary history in neoliberal institutions) and readers with an interest in queer or trans topics. This story is fun, but there are two intertwined stories which confused me at first: Jack Sheppard (from John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, written in 1728) and Dr. Voth (the ...more
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I'm in complete awe of Jordy Rosenberg's command over language and this absolutely genius book. I don't think any review I give could do it justice, so I'll just say you need this in your life.
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was excited to get my hands on this book, since it rings two of my favorite fun-reading bells, 18th century fiction of the bawdy, funny Fielding/Sterne variety, and gender creativity. Happy to say I wasn't disappointed - and I got the added bonus of the corollary story of the 'editor's' life, told in footnotes - a technique I loved in Pale Fire, although this editor doesn't go nearly as far off the rails as Kinbote. There's all kinds of nods to post-colonial and queer thought both in the plot ...more
Apr 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Normally I attempt to avoid reading plot summaries and reviews too much to maintain some element of surprise, but this one I did check out and it sounded irresistible, something straight out of Sarah Waters’ realm of queer historical fiction. Then again that was probably setting the bar much too high. This book does have a lot of the same ingredients (queer characters, historical setting, specifically England early 1700s, small crimes, grand love story, adventures, etc.), but prepared by a very ...more
Jennifer S. Brown
I read this book in preparation for a panel at the Boston Book Festival, and I couldn't get out of bed this morning until I had finished it, because I was so caught up in Jack Sheppard's world that I didn't want to move. I am in absolute awe of this book. What Rosenberg put into the writing is so magical because it's so impeccably researched yet the story flows. The main manuscript is written in an older English, but after a page or two, I had no problem sinking into the language, and it was imm ...more
Is it possible to write a deeply anti-capitalist, anti-colonial, anti-imperial, anti-binary hopeful novel that is simultaneously metafictional and gripping? Yes, ladies and gents and everyone in between and outside, yes, it is. This is what political fiction looks like.

Small quibbles aside, this was an enormously clever conceit and well-executed, too.

While I do think that some of Bess's dialogue, in particular, was on the nose (see her "securitizational furor" speech in the pub), I'm letting it
Tracy Rowan
What a strange book.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I requested it from Net Galley, though the premise sounded intriguing; a retelling of John Gay's Beggar's Opera (the original source for Brecht's Threepenny Opera) with some gender-swapping?  Okay I'm game. 

The book recounts the short, intense life of one Jack Sheppard, a notorious 18th century footpad, and his love, Edgeworth Bess.  But in this version, Jack is a young woman who has always identified as male, Bess is an Anglo-Indian sex work
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this book is weird and subversive and bursting with lust and revolutionary energy. Even with some queer theory bits that got too weirdly abstract for me, and some threads of meta story that seemed to fall by the wayside unresolved, the "manuscript" is engrossing and like nothing I've read before. The "explanation" for it makes sense in the end, but with or without that commentary it's just a wild ride through an un-white/cis/straightwashed history.

I went into this knowing not a one of the
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A phenomenal look at trans historicity, the emergence of the carceral surveillance state, and the academic precariat through the lens of a romping, sexy 18th-century adventure novel. As a transmasculine person, it felt amazing to see us present in history. Uses a lot of the same metanarratival and puzzle-construction moves as Nabokov, but manages to improve upon them. The book that I will be annoying all of my friends to read in 2019!

(Also incredible: Rosenberg's essay on Mad Max, masculinity, a
Josh Hereth
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt
This was truly such a brilliantly crafted book and I can’t wait to see what everyone else has to say about it. This historical fiction reimagining notorious eighteenth-century thief Jack Sheppard as a trans man will keep you hooked, but the abundant use of arcane eighteenth-century vocabulary and writing style will keep your speed in check— and trust me, you don’t want to finish this book too fast. Did I mention that the novel itself is a found, unpublished manuscript while our transcriber, Dr. ...more
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whoa, doggie. This was something else. Both a super story and a fascinating form of story-telling.

But ugh. Why do ebooks (and maybe the paper book??) not link footnotes? Is this a tablet issue? An app issue? A publisher issue? This 100% took me out of the story each time I had to flip back and forth. If a footnote is essential for the story, PUT IT AT THE FUCKING BOTTOM OF THE PAGE, ASSHOLES.
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: glbt
This book is pretty unlike anything I have ever read before. It a (trans) academic's faithful transcription of a potentially lost manuscript telling of the life, adventures, misadventures and sex life of the legendary 18th century prison escapist and thief, Jack Sheppard. In this manuscript, it is made clear for the first time ever that Jack is also trans, though lacks the terminology for it.
As Voth, the academic, gets further into the story, his own thoughts, feelings, and stories permeate his
Galley provided by publisher

Rep: trans male mcs

Actual rating 3.5

Confessions of the Fox is a reimagining of the legend of Jack Sheppard, a thief and gaol-breaker of the early 18th century in London, in which Jack is a trans man. It is told in the form of an authentic manuscript, found by Professor Voth, whose annotations of the manuscript in themselves tell a parallel story.

To be honest, I found it a little hard to get into the manuscript story. Mostly because it's written to emulate actual 18th-
This review originally appeared on the book review blog: Just One More Pa(i)ge.

The first time I saw this available on NetGalley, I clicked right past it. The blurb sounded intriguing (I do love stories about the “underbelly” of society) but I try to only request from NetGalley when something truly strikes me, so that my TBR there doesn’t get too backed up. However, right after that, I saw someone rave about it on bookstagram (I need to starting writing these accounts down when they inspire me,
There is so much to say about this book, I'm not even sure where to begin.

In many ways, the book is groundbreaking and fascinating. I've truly never read anything like it. But did I ENJOY it? Man, that's hard to say.

I'll be honest, this book was challenging to read. For one, the structure is complicated. On one level you have the relationship of Bess and Jack (EASILY the best part of the book). Then there is our author and his parallel story about finding the story about Bess and Jack and inte
J. F.
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book Review: Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg

Being a voracious reader, I was curious: the debut novel of an author "..writing with the narrative mastery of Sarah Waters and the playful imagination of Nabokov..", and described to be " audacious storyteller of extraordinary talent". The genre: LGBTQIA.

Jack Sheppard, the story's protagonist, was the 18th century’s most notorious robber and thief. His spectacular escapes from various prisons made him the most glamorous rogue in London
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Jordy Rosenberg is an Associate Professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he teaches 18th-century Literature and queer/transgender theory. He has received fellowships and awards from the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation, The Ahmanson Foundation/J. Paul Getty Trust, the UCLA Center for 17th- and 18th-Century Studies, the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, and th ...more