Friday, April 07, 2006

Slammerkin - Emma Donoghue [April/06]

I read this novel for one of the reading sites I belong to as the book of the month. It was something I had owned beforehand, so it was great to be able to read something I already owned with other people. For starters, many people wonder what "Slammerkin" means. I to be honest, thought it was slang for violence because the back of the book is not overly informative and I thought violence was a central theme to the book. In truth, a slammerkin is a type of dress that women wore at the time. This still may seem like a strange title for a novel, but the main character, Mary Saunders, considered clothing one of the more important things to life. A slammerkin would also play a central role at the end of the novel, but that is something best not given away.

The novel takes place during the 18th-century and was actually based on fragments of newspapers from the time. It is really an odd concept, but what starts it all is Mary Saunders sees a prostitute with a red ribbon and wishes one for herself and because of this falls into prostitution and the disasterous life that brings with it. You find yourself glued to the page, wanting to see what would happen to Mary in the end. Kicked out of her home because of a bad choice she made while still relatively young, we see a smart and innocent girl thrown into the dangerous side of society. We follow Mary from the whorehouse, to the Magdalen Hospital for reformed prostitutes, to her parents hometown where she settles down with her mother's best friend. Mary is a strong young woman, but left to fend for herself for most of her life and always having to struggle to get by has made for some troubling times from the young girl. She always wants more than she has and it takes disaster to find out that she destroyed the good things she had because of a desire to be above everyone else.

I enjoyed reading Mary's story, once you get into it you find that it is hard to put it down. The ending was sort of shocking to me when it happened, but when you think about it you could almost say you saw it coming. I may have to look into some more Donoghue novels in the future.


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