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Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  82 ratings  ·  21 reviews
From the highly acclaimed author of Version Control a stunning, powerfully evocative new novel based on a true story—in 1726 in the small town of Godalming, England, a young woman confounds the medical community by giving birth to dead rabbits.

Surgeon John Howard is a rational man. His apprentice Zachary knows John is reluctant to believe anything that purports to exist
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published November 19th 2019 by Pantheon Books
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Jessica Woodbury
4.5 stars. At first, MARY TOFT seems like a book about what happens when we are confronted with the impossible. How does one fathom it? Through science or magic or faith? But as the book goes on it becomes clear that there is more to it than what you may have first thought, and that is the very heart of it: that it took you this long to see it.

Ultimately this is a book about our appetite for depravity, our lack of empathy, our inability to treat each other as human. It is about selfishness,
Rhiannon Johnson
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
*I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Please visit my blog for this review:

I am always looking to read something that is a little quirky, a little left of center, or weird enough that it probably won't flood the Bookstagram feed. When I read the summary of Mary Toft, or the Rabbit Queen, I thought "ding ding ding...we have a winner." A woman giving birth to dead rabbits? Yep, that's my kind of weird. Upon
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Dexter Palmer digs up an old gem of a story from 1700s England and puts his particular touch to this tale based on the real life account of Mary Toft, a wife and field laborer who appeared to give birth to several dead rabbits. Doctors of the era were at first horrified and confused, then wondered if they were witness to a miracle, then later, despite actually delivering rabbit parts from Toft, were doubtful and suspicious. They called in more doctors and Lords and Dukes and the King was even ...more
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mary Toft--wife, mother, field laborer, commoner--gives birth to a rabbit. It's 1726 in the village of Godalming, England. From this small historical curio, Dexter Palmer spins the dark, piercing and engrossing novel Mary Toft, or the Rabbit Queen. While historical(-based) fiction often operates by pulling past events into the value framework of contemporary readers, in Mary Toft, Palmer places the reader firmly into a variety of value frameworks in place in 1726 England. This subtlety uncommon ...more
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating bit of historical fiction based on true events in 18th century England. Surgeon and male mid-wife John Howard has a patient who starts to birth rabbits. If you just did a double take then you understand why I had to read this book.

This anomaly, for want of a better word, attracts the attention of King George III and the woman is moved to London for closer observation. A lot of the impressions are told through the eyes of young Zachary Walsh who is apprentice to John Howard…
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Is truth... a matter of consensus, subject to debate, subject to alteration?" Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen by Dexter Palmer (Version Control) follows a woman who, implausibly, gives birth to rabbits and who, as she struggles to control the narrative of her own body, serves as a challenge to the beliefs of a patriarchal society.

In 1726, in the village of Godalming, England, surgeon John Howard and his apprentice, Zachary, attend to a woman giving birth. Horrifyingly, bloody rabbit parts
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I try to adhere to semi-strict rules about buying books for myself. There is a short list of authors who are exempt from this rule, whose newest books I pre-order as soon as it is an option. Within this there is an even shorter list (the Short Short List) of authors whose new books I will read immediately -- literally stop another book mid-sentence to read. You don't even want to know what you have to do to get on the Short Short List. You have to perform a literary miracle to my soul to get on ...more
Elise Wright
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I received a copy from a Goodreads giveaway which was much appreciated!

I was very much interested in reading about Mary Toft since this was based on her true story and this book did not disappoint. While the cover portrays a comical version of the story, it was not. A lot of points in the book genuinely did make me laugh but as far as Mary's part it was more grotesque than anything. Animal lovers beware, these aren't cute little rabbits being birthed they are dissected. There were also two
Sara Batkie
Picked this up because the description of the true-life case intrigued me, as did the comparisons on the back matter to Hilary Mantel. Dexter Palmer has a light touch with the material, keeping things humming along nicely, mixing humor with the grotesque in an entertaining manner much like the showman whose exhibition of medical curiosities opens the book. That said, it's hard to feel that it adds up to much, especially since most readers will likely guess at what's going on much earlier than ...more
Dec 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
That was weird. I'm not sure why I kept reading, especially after the bit about the bull. I wanted to know how it turned out for John Howard, Zachary, and Mary is the only reason I can come up with.

Mary giving birth to rabbits was the core of the story, with a lot of (forgive me) rabbit trails off onto marriage, abuse, belief, being wealthy and bored,animal cruelty, freak shows, and class distinction. I would have done better to put the book down, read a Wikipedia article about Mary Toft and
Jacob Hoefer
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A tale of fraud written with such empathy and honesty it warms the heart as it disgusts, disturbs, and challenges our notion of truth. What I loved so much about this book is Dexter Palmers approach to his characters. Instead of being cynical and laughing at the fools of the 18th century, he takes a layered and in depth approach to their thinking so we believe as they do that mary toft is giving birth to rabbits.The star of the story is Mary Toft herself. Despite the story being about her she is ...more
Maureen Grigsby
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Occasionally you find a marvelous book that is bizarre and wonderful at the same time. This historical fiction is about an actual case in England in the late 1700’s where a woman appeared to be giving birth to rabbits. From the fabulous drawing on the cover, to the mesmerizing story itself, I found this book to be just terrific. I would highly recommend it!
Daniel Field
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
So disappointing. I absolutely loved Version Control and was excited to read Dexter Palmer's new book. But it is slow and tremendously boring. I know it was based on a true story, and Palmer's prose is very decent, but it felt like he stretched the story for far longer than it needed to be, and I debated quitting the book a few times.
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, history
Lyrical! Magical! A story told so well that I didn't want it to end! Dexter is gifted & now on my radar as an author so well-worth watching for!
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tob20
You have to like weird, historical, based on true life stories to make it through this one, but if you do, this is your book!
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Based on a true story. Never heard about this case so I was intrigued. Well-researched and written.
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Terrific, sassy, erudite: I'd say that it reminds me of The Favourite but Palmer's novel stands on its own.
I particularly loved Alice Howard.
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, read-fiction
My review is here.
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dexter Palmer is brilliant, and a must read for me. This book just makes my heart feel good. It's a philosophical meditation on epistemology set in a carefully rendered 18th century England. It's not a fantasy, but it is about fake news.
rated it it was amazing
Dec 03, 2019
rated it it was amazing
Dec 08, 2019
Rose Cronin-Jackman
rated it it was amazing
Jun 22, 2019
rated it did not like it
Dec 03, 2019
John Barry
rated it it was amazing
Nov 27, 2019
rated it it was amazing
Dec 04, 2019
Alex Moran
rated it it was amazing
Aug 06, 2019
Deborah J. Russo
rated it it was ok
Oct 29, 2019
rated it really liked it
Dec 04, 2019
rated it liked it
Aug 14, 2019
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Dexter Palmer lives in Princeton, New Jersey. His first novel, The Dream of Perpetual Motion, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2010, and was selected as one of the best debuts of that year by Kirkus Reviews. His second, Version Control, was published by Pantheon Books in February 2016.

He holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University, where he completed his dissertation on the
“But also: nightmares. The most delicious nightmares, the kind that one has only after the wall between the mundane and the magical is breached directly before one's eyes; nightmares that make you smile as you shiver in your sleep.” 0 likes
“. . . but what they were all waiting for, none could say; nor could one say whether they were all waiting for the same thing, or whether each was waiting for something entirely different.” 0 likes
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