Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Book Review - The Butcher's Hook by Janet Ellis

Like many of you I only knew Janet Ellis as a Blue Peter presenter. So I had slight reservations about her first novel; no reason why I should feel that way but it's sometimes hard to imagine people in a sphere other than the one we're used to.

However I'm pleased to say that Janet Ellis has scored a hit with this novel. I really enjoyed it and will certainly look out for her second. It was refreshing to read a novel set in the Georgian period, a part of history that I particularly love. Victorian London is very familiar to us through he work of Dickens but it made a change to step into a different London. And what a place it was; mud and filth in the streets, gangs of marauding children, smoke and poverty. Janet Ellis evokes place through all the senses and really sets a convincing scene. At times I could almost taste the food on the table and smell Simeon Onions.

The characters are interesting but not likable. Usually this is enough to put me off a book but in this case they were so well rounded that I was interested in what happened to them despite their flaws. Anne Jacobbs is the protagonist and she's a complex character, a young girl trapped in an oppressive household, realising that she has no control over her destiny. She meets Fub, the butcher's boy and they form an unlikely relationship. But Fub knows that there is no future for them despite the girlish plans of Anne. Her solution to the problem is shocking and seems out of character for a young girl. Anne is damaged goods though, scarred by the memory of her little brother's death and the abuse she suffers at the hands of the men in her life. So it is no surprise when she acts against the norms of her time - or any other come to that.

I am slightly concerned by the ending. I guess the fact that it is open ended bothers me - I prefer people to get their just desserts at the end of a story or at least for the loose ends to be tied up. However I can see that there is scope for a sequel which would be an interesting read. All in all I enjoyed reading The Butcher's Hook, was drawn into the lives of the characters and their world and will look out for more from Janet Ellis. 

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