Book Reviews of Slammerkin

Slammerkin
Slammerkin
Author: Emma Donoghue
ISBN-13: 9780156007474
ISBN-10: 0156007479
Publication Date: 5/1/2002
Pages: 408
Rating:
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 270

3.8 stars, based on 270 ratings
Publisher: Harvest Books
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

69 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Slammerkin on + 86 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 15
Very cool book about a poor girl in Victorian England who discovers that she can assert some level of finacial and emotional independence by becoming a prostitute. Her drive to avoid being someone else's chattel leads her to a number of drastic, and often unwise, decisions. Good portrayal of the severely limited number of options given to women historically. Also interesting because it refuses to romanticise the protagonist - you cheer her on her paths to freedom, but despise her willingness to abuse others to get the things she wants (and you pity her short-sightedness). Despite the cover picture, not a bodice-ripper by any means.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 56 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 11
This book is terrific! If you're interested in the 1700s England/Wales, how young girls made money then (including prostitution), and class issues, this is the book for you. I loved the writing style. Donaghue wrote from the main character's point of view until the very end of the book when she switches to the POV of other characters also. It worked very well to give a larger picture of the story. I loved this book!
reviewed Slammerkin on + 151 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
I picked up this book because I enjoyed The Crimson Petal and the White (Michael Faber) so much. This was very much in the same vein, a historical character study of a prostitute, but heavier on the character study and lighter on the romance feminist triumph. Mary was one of those characters that you know you should hate, but end up loving and siding with as the book develops.

Overall, not a great, but a reasonably good novel on the life of a prostitute in the mid 18th century. Worth reading.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 287 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
I didn't really want to like Mary, but I found myself liking her very much and having a lot of pity for her and hoping that things would work out for her. If only she had not longed so much for the red ribbon. How differently would everything have worked out? But then again, would her life have really been that much better had she not wanted the ribbon?
reviewed Slammerkin on + 12 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
It was refreshing to have a character with so many unlikable qualities and to have the sexual escapades seem so unappealing. The author did a good job of transporting me to 1760.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 129 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
What a disapointment. The book started out so good, dark and mysterious...but then became endlessly dull in the middle and the ending was anti-climatic and predictable.


When I read this I was unaware that it was a fictionalized acount of a real person, but even knowing that did not help this book at all. I was amazingly unimpressed.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 188 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Definitely worth reading. It's a book you pass around to your reader friends and they love it also. The story is incredible! Highly recommended.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 526 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Many of my friends have raved about this book!
Born to rough cloth in working-class London in 1748, Mary Saunders hungers for linen and lace. Her lust for a shiny red ribbon leads her to a life of prostitution at a young age. A dangerous misstep sends her fleeing to Monmouth and the refuge of the middle-class household of Mrs. Jones, her mother's childhood friend. There she becomes the seamstress her mother always expected her to be and lives the ordinary life of an ordinary girl.

Although Mary becomes a close confidante of Mrs. Jones and has a catalytic effect on the entire household, her desire for a better life leads her back to prostitution. Ultimately, Mary remains true only to the three rules she learned on the streets of London: Never give up your liberty. Clothes make the woman. Clothes are the greatest lie ever told. And it is clothes, their splendor and their deception, that will finally lead Mary to disaster.

reviewed Slammerkin on + 13 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Engaging picture of 1700s London and the life of women with no money or prospects. Interesting perspective on gender and prostitution.
reviewed Slammerkin on
Helpful Score: 3
Watching Mary try to rise above her period-enforced station, taking shortcuts to satisfy her longings, is much like watching a slow motion train wreck. You know she ends up in the gaol as the story starts that way and watching her impetuosity telegraphs how she gets there.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 59 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I rarely put a book down once I pick it up but this one was to harsh for me.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 15 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Slammerkin is slang for prostitute
Story of a prostitute in working-class London in the 1700's
Bawdy and fascinating
reviewed Slammerkin on + 56 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
A fictional story based on true events...incredibly told. A true page turner. Best book I've read this year.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 32 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Great read! Interesting fictional account of a real life crime, focusing on the events leading up to it. Somewhat disturbing and violent at times with fairly frank sexual content.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 74 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Historical novel based on the true life case of a woman that killed her employer in 1763. I found the twists and turns of fate that shaped this woman's unfortunate life an interesting read.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 4 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I really enjoyed the first 3/4 or so of this book, but it took a bizarre twist toward the end which almost ruined the whole thing for me. However, I still recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and doesn't mind a little raciness.
reviewed Slammerkin on
Helpful Score: 2
This book is a fascinating and horrifying read of a woman's life in 1748 London. The descent into a life of prostitution, the struggle to better one's self, and the despair of a disappointing life resonate with a modern day woman. The desire for the better things in life conflict with the desire for a better quality of life. An unexpected twist at the end will leave the reader disturbed and create as many questions about life as it gives answers.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 75 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I decided to order this book because of the top reviews it received - "a romp", "a swoon of a novel" - and discovered that to me it is neither of those. It is instead an extremely well written but depressing and somewhat horrifying history of the short life of a young woman in 18th century England. I love historical novels and this is a good one, and I'm sure quite factual, but the details of the daily life of the young teen thrown out by her parents to live on her own are sordid. I finished reading it, but I can't say I really enjoyed it.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 12 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
The first half of this book flies by. We cheer Mary's growing savviness, and lament her impatience. The second half pales (literally) in the mind's eye as Mary leaves her previous self, and colorful London, behind. A great story that I have read and reread, with closure at the end.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 57 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Slammerkin was an interesting book. Having never read anything by the author I wasn't sure what to expect. It was a bit slow getting started but I liked it.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 16 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book is an object lesson in the danger of judging a book by its cover -- in this case, a cover suggesting that the story within will be a lush costume drama in which the sensual main character experiences erotic ecstasy. Instead of sensual pleasure, it depicts the violent, disease-ridden details of Mary Saunders' hardscrabble survival amid desperate conditions as an urban prostitute in 18th century England.

I found myself wishing not so much for modern feminism and economic liberation for Mary, but the very least for penicillin, soap, and condoms. Detailed descriptions were cringe-worthy and evocative, and Mary's story was both gripping and bleak. I rooted for Mary as she defended her liberty, but dreaded the next page because with almost every step in search of economic independence and self-determination, Mary's life only became worse.

Mary was both deeply unlikeable and strangely appealing, stubborn and self-defeating, selfish, thoughtless, and admirably determined to control her own destiny. Slammerkin is worth reading, richly evocative in detail, but neither easy nor enjoyable at times.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 11 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I read this in two days!! From the back cover:
"A gripping and extraordinarily atmospheric tale.....Not only has Emma Donoghue writen an elegant and literary page turner in the best, contemporary sense, she has also laid a rich feast for lovers of historical novels."
reviewed Slammerkin on + 17 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A very thought-provoking book good for book clubs
reviewed Slammerkin on + 14 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This was an account about a young girl's life in the 1700's in London. Through a series of events she enters into a life of prostitution. This book is historical fiction from this girl's perspective although several of the events in the story actually happened.
I was hooked right from the start when I picked up this book. The main character, Mary, is difficult to like; but I always wanted to find out what was going to happen to her. There were several sections in the middle of the book that seemed flat to me, I kept wanting to race ahead to find out what was going to happen. But I stuck with it and didn't put the book down in the last 100 pages. By that point even though I still wasn't sure if I liked the main character, I wanted some sort of resolution.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 42 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A raucous book set in 1748 London; the main character, a prostitute named Mary Saunders, is fantastic subject matter. Very entertaining.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 4 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Tragic ending to a bleak story. I did enjoy the book but it was more a case of "liked it" rather than "loved it."
reviewed Slammerkin on + 12 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Depressing and cold. the whole story revolved around unattractive sex.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 33 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is a fascinating historical tale, based on court records of the time about a London whore - with few good qualities. Mary, the main character is a fifteen year old girl who has interest only in herself--saving her own skin and getting more and more money together to stash in a big old sock under the bed. You will like this book if you like historical fiction. It's a great read. You will close the covers of the book feeling very lucky not to have known Mary Saunders.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 59 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Wow, this was one heck of a read, I could NOT put it down..well written, awfully sad, but GOOD GOOD GOOD!
reviewed Slammerkin on + 65 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is a very good, interesting, well-written book that focuses on a young prostitute in England in the 1700s. It's enjoyable and engrossing, however, it's not my favorite book. It's definitely worth the read, though, and I'll certainly check out other books by the same author.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 26 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Didn't really enjoy the first part of this book. Seemed to be too much description of the main character's sexual encounters and not much personal character development. The second part of the book had more story to it. Despite all this, I did enjoy the book.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 7 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
As a historical novel, this book was fun to read. The story is a bit depressing, but it does have a twisted finale.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 21 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I loved this book. The story highlights the severe distinction in classes at the time. Somewhat sad but very touching.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
i don't usually read books like this, but i read a review for it in jane magazine (remember that?) and picked up the hardback for a deal. i read it in a few hours. absolutely amazing. the cover is completely deceiving. it's about a hard life, a chance at redemption, a few bad choices, and a bitter end. definitely worth reading.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 51 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Started to read this book with no expectations and was really engrossed in the story right away.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 905 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
WOW--this was a wonderful read. Wasn't sure if i'd like it totally, but i LOVED it. You'll love Mary and the life she lives adds so much to this really sad but charming story. I found the more i read, the faster i found myself reading. Mary's demise was her love of beauty and the edge of life she could just not quite reach, no matter how she tried. This really was well worth time spent reading.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 289 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Slammerkin is a quick, bawdy read. Often cited as a book about a prostitute in 18th century England, it's a bit more: an all too common tale of how class and gender conspire to thwart a bright, ambitious female life. Written by an Irish historian with a gift for witty prose, I enjoyed how it transported me to 18th century London and then a household in a small town on the English-Welsh border. I sympathized with the title character although her ambition for "fine clothes" made her life a train wreck about to happen...
reviewed Slammerkin on + 17 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I loved this book. Who'd have thought that the subject of child prostitution in Ireland in the 1700's would hold my interest? The story is told with historical facts that taught me something and even with humor in spite of some desperate situations. Loved the relationship between the protagonist and her mentor. I loved "Room" also and am an Emma Donoghue fan!
reviewed Slammerkin on + 145 more book reviews
This is a very good read. Delves into the fictional life of a young woman in London in the 19th century. "slammerkin:"a loose woman, a loose dress" quoted by author. This is the life of a prostitute and may offend some. But I give it 5 stars.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 38 more book reviews
Although this received good reviews from the London critics and the reviewers on PBS, I was extremely disappointed. Yes, it is well-written; but it is the unrelievedly dreary tale of a whore in London in the late 18th century. The character development was minimal--I really didn't care what happened to Mary. She dreams of a better life but falls into an "easy" one. At first she is too naive to be believable; then she is just boring. There is no humor or satire, and the social commentary is missing. Try Daniel Defoe's "Moll Flnaders" instead.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 57 more book reviews
Slammerkin surprised me--it kept me turning pages, and wondering a lot about a single woman's chance of survival in 1740's England. I also appreciated the descriptions of clothing so long ago--a slammerkin could be used as a dress to entice men, or worn by ladies on the cutting edge of fashion--not unlike today's camisoles, which used to be hidden under blouses, but have emerged into today's outerwear.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 380 more book reviews
A very sad and gripping tale of Mary Saunders, born in London in the 18th century, and having been thrown out of her 'home' by her mother, turns to a life of prostitution, one of the few options for young women in those times. The first part of the book is told through Mary's eyes, the rest, after she arrives in Monmouth, is told through the eyes of several characters.
Parts of this book might be hard for some to read, especially when you realize that these things actually happened, over and over again. Very well written, the characters come right off the page, an excellent glimpse into an interesting part of history.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 10 more book reviews
Great historical fiction!
reviewed Slammerkin on + 1255 more book reviews
Wow! What a ride was this book. Then to find out that it was based on a true story really makes you think. Excellent details and information about the life and struggles that a young woman would have to go through in that time and how to survive. A really great read.
reviewed Slammerkin on
If you like picaresque historical novels about women, you'll probably like this book. That being said, I preferred Belle Cora by Phillip Margules and My Notorious Life by Sarah Manning. They were tighter.

The first 1/3 of this book was totally solid and compelling. The story of a girl's descent into prostitution in eighteenth century London is can't-look-away horrifying and fascinating. Where this book falters is once Mary leaves London, and boy does it falter. It starts jumping POV to characters who have scarcely been introduced, and the pacing slows down to an excruciating grind, to the point where I almost put the book down. It picks back up in the final third, but it was rough going for a while.

I really like Donahue's use of language and her ability to voice characters so well. I couldn't put down Room or Kissing the Witch. Her masterful language and voicing is still evident, but this book could have used some heavy editing.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 69 more book reviews
Very interesting!!
reviewed Slammerkin on + 206 more book reviews
I like Emma Donoghue and enjoy her writing, this book was not one of my favorites. The subject is dark and depressing and I was happy when it was over.
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I really enjoyed this book, the story was so engaging and you felt for the main character. How can society do that to girls? Very interesting subject matter. A really good read.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 959 more book reviews
Brutal and dark tale of a London girl whose cravings to rise above the poverty around her leads her to prostitution, deception, and murder. Donoghue's London in the 1700s is vividly drawn and her characters ring true. This is not an easy read, but it will stay with you for a long time.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 81 more book reviews
Wonderful book with unforgettable characters.
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I almost missed my stop on the train several times while reading this book!
reviewed Slammerkin on
I loved the writing itself. It made me really imagine the town, the scenery, the people.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 41 more book reviews
It was okay. A little slow in the middle.
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The first half was great, the second half was less interesting. It's a decent read, but not my favorite.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 10 more book reviews
This is a New York Times Notable book -- nice, large format -- got great reviews. Oddly I wasn't crazy about it. Maybe you'll enjoy it.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 19 more book reviews
I enjoyed this book, particularly the historical picture of what it was like for a woman on her own in this period. Not many choices. Desperate times.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 65 more book reviews
I didn't know this was historical fiction until the end. I think if I knew that the ending was inevitable I might have looked at the main character's actions differently. Still, it is difficult to enjoy a book with so much suffering with no real purpose realized.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 982 more book reviews
Absolutely loved this book. Shocking ending, IMO! MY copy does NOT have a bookjacket.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 11 more book reviews
Professional review:

Synopses & Reviews
Publisher Comments:
Born to rough cloth in working-class London in 1748, Mary Saunders hungers for linen and lace. Her lust for a shiny red ribbon leads her to a life of prostitution at a young age, where she encounters a freedom unknown to virtuous young women. But a dangerous misstep sends her fleeing to Monmouth and the refuge of the middle-class household of Mrs. Jones, to become the seamstress her mother always expected her to be and to live the ordinary life of an ordinary girl. Although Mary becomes a close confidante of Mrs. Jones, her desire for a better life leads her back to prostitution. She remains true only to the three rules she learned on the streets of London: Never give up your liberty; Clothes make the woman; Clothes are the greatest lie ever told. In the end, it is clothes, their splendor and their deception, that lead Mary to disaster.
Emma Donoghue's daring, sensually charged prose casts a new sheen on the squalor and glamour of eighteenth-century England. Accurate, masterfully written, and infused with themes that still bedevil us today, Slammerkin is historical fiction for all readers.


Review:
"This book rocks, from the title on." USA Today
Review:
"This boldly imagined historical fiction...represents a quantum leap forward....Donoghue has triumphantly reimagined the life of a real historical figure of whom nothing is known beyond [a] few facts....Irresistible, and deeply satisfying. Donoghue has surpassed herself." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Review:
"Donoghue shows her mastery of eighteenth-century England and epic storytelling....[A] serious but suspenseful and even entertaining novel....What is most amazing is Donoghue's capacity for tackling weighty issues (prostitution, crime, and slavery) while avoiding didacticism." Booklist
Synopsis:
Inspired by the story of a teenage girl who murdered her mistress in 1763 because she "longed for fine clothes, " "Slammerkin" is the bestselling classic story of a lower-class Roxana, a female Tom Jones.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 3 more book reviews
good book racy read
reviewed Slammerkin on + 982 more book reviews
A fantastic read! The ending totally shocked me.
reviewed Slammerkin on
Born to rough cloth in Hogarth's London, but longing for silk, Mary Saunders's eye for a shiny red ribbon leads her to prostitution at a young age. A dangerous misstep sends her fleeing to Monmouth, and the position of household seamstress, the ordinary life of an ordinary girl with no expectations. But Mary has known freedom, and having never known love, it is freedom that motivates her. Mary asks herself if the prostitute who hires out her body is more or less free than the "honest woman" locked into marriage, or the servant who runs a household not her own? And is either as free as a man? Ultimately, Mary remains true only to the three rules she learned on the streets: Never give up your liberty. Clothes make the woman. Clothes are the greatest lie ever told.
reviewed Slammerkin on + 88 more book reviews
Fantastic book - I loved it!
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I great story set in the slums of London in the 1700's.
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Outstanding book!
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Very exciting!
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Very good!
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good read. hard to put down.
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From Library Journal
"Slammerkin," an 18th-century term meaning a loose gown or loose woman, is a fitting title for Irish writer Donoghue's (Hood) third novel. Mary Saunders's mother scratches out a meager living as a seamstress in 1760s London, but Mary longs for a more luxurious life with fine ribbons and clothes. At 13, she sneers at her mother's suggestion that she take up the needle, then makes a fateful mistake that leads her into prostitution. On the street, the young woman indulges her fine tastes and lives an independent life. When illness forces her to seek help, she vows to reform her lifestyle. Mary flees to a tiny hamlet where she finds work as a maid and seamstress. In her new life, she discovers the comforts of a home and family. But she questions whether "honest" women are any freer than prostitutes and is unable to forget her former life and her need for autonomy a need that leads to violence. This eloquent and engrossing novel, rich in historical detail and based on an actual murder, raises numerous issues about a woman's station in society during this period. An ideal choice for book groups; recommended for all public and academic libraries.