What a gloriously odd little book this is. Inside its beautiful cover lurks a tale that will confound all your expectations of historical literary heroines, though its darkly intense characters are caricatures in the best tradition of eighteenth-century literature.
Janet Ellis, television presenter and mother of Sophie Ellis-Bextor, graduated from the Curtis Brown Creative School in 2014 and is one of the first to be published. She has created very modern love story that fits neatly into its Georgian setting.
Behind the meekly compliant exterior of her central character Anne Jaccob, is a woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. But instead of stamping her tiny foot and pummelling her dainty fists on the unyielding chest of society she draws on her own untested resources to take matters into her own hands.
Anne lives in a house dripping with grief. Her mother is exhausted from giving birth to children who fail to live and her father’s kindness has expired with his offspring. The one bright light in her life is learning, but when her tutor molests her – an incident that excites curiosity and disgust in equal measure – he is sent away. Lonely and sexually frustrated, she thinks she’s found her happy ever after in Fub the butcher’s boy, but her father has other ideas in the shape of insufferable fop, Shimeon Onions.
I could say Anne delicately plays each of these characters off with a skill that does credit to her sex, but she doesn’t. She takes the simplest route between her situation and her goal with results that are at once shocking and exhilaratingly life-affirming.