March Madness

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As I gushed a few posts ago, we had the wonderful John Ironmonger visit our bookclub and give us some literary chat. Of course we couldn’t let him leave without asking if he’d recommend a book and he was kind enough to oblige us and caused quite a stir when he selected not one, but two books for us to plough through for March Bookclub. The first book we covered was Address Unknown by Catherine Kressman-Taylor, which was fantastic. A short but powerful pamphlet essentially that covered the dangers of Nazism brought with the rise of Hitler in a series of letters between a Jewish American and his business partner who has returned to Germany in 1932. You can devour the book in one short sitting; literally in the amount of time it takes to drink a cup of tea you will have been gripped and moved by the story, brought horrifyingly into context by our own knowledge and understanding of Germany, Hitler and the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis, that counter ignorance of the characters, naive to what would befall the world in the following years.

The second book was The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman, published last year the book is beautiful both in terms of content and cover. I mean seriously, just look at this beaut. It’s stunning.

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The Fair Fight is set in 18th Century Bristol, and tells the story of Ruth, the illegitimate offspring of a Madame, who grows up with her body owned by a nouveau-riche entrepreneur who throws her into the world of boxing. The novel is incredible, gripping, enjoyable and modern in the way that it refuses to get dragged down in the prejudices of the time (the novel touches on homosexuality, illegitimacy, prostitution, feminism) and gets on with telling the story. The characters and the world they inhibit is fascinating and I was gutted to be nearing the end of the novel, so much did I want it to continue. The whole thing is so accomplished, so complete that I found it incredible that it was a first novel.; as the depth and warmth of the writing hints at an experienced and classic writer. There was so much to say about the novel, that at Bookclub we managed to spend the whole discussion without really ever giving away the ending, much to the gratitude of the few members who hadn’t quite reached the end.

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The Fair Fight was, in parts (by which I mean the parts that focus on brothels, whores and sex) the novel the Madame; A Novel of New Orleans, should have been. Where Madame’s attempts at intrigue and drama and interesting characters fall flat, and the writing is insipid and flat, The Fair Fight draws you in, riles you in and spits you out at the end enthralled, excited and ready to put your fives up.

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