Published by: HQ, HarperCollins
Publication date: 27th July 2017
Blurb‘I would like to make myself the heroine of this story – an innocent victim led astray. But alas sir, I would be lying…’London, 1756: In Newgate prison, Tully Truegood awaits trial. Her fate hanging in the balance, she tells her life-story. It’s a tale that takes her from skivvy in the back streets of London, to conjuror’s assistant, to celebrated courtesan at her stepmother’s Fairy House, the notorious house of ill-repute where decadent excess is a must
Tully was once the talk of the town. Now, with the best seats at Newgate already sold in anticipation of her execution, her only chance of survival is to get her story to the one person who can help her avoid the gallows.
She is Tully Truegood.
Orphan, whore, magician’s apprentice.
Wray Deleney is the pen name of Sally Gardner, award winning children’s novelist. This is her first adult book. It is available as a hardback but the paperback edition will be available from 27th July 2017. I’ve never read any work by this author so I can’t compare it to her children’s novels. The book has been compared to Sarah Waters’ novels, unfortunately I’ve never read any of her books either, so I can’t say how well that comparison holds up.
Reading this book, the overall feel was a cross between ‘serious’ historical fiction and a bodice ripping romance. Luckily, the historical fiction beat the bodice ripper for control.
As a work of historical fiction I found this book engrossing and highly enjoyable. While explicit in places, it isn’t gratuitous or purely for titillation. The descriptions of life in mid-eighteenth century London feel realistic and show the author has done her fair share of research for this novel.
The mystery of who Tully is married to, and who killed her supposed husband, plays through the book, and the descriptions of her life are engrossing. It has a very ‘happily ever after’ feel to the ending, which I’m not sure I like (the bodice-ripper-romance element I mentioned); certainly Hogarth would have been surprised that the whore’s progress didn’t lead to poverty, pox and an early death. The idea of swearing on Harris’s List made me giggle. The descriptions of brothel life, with it’s rules and false glamour, the petty rivalries between whores and the dangers of the life they live, are very clear and give a realistic feel to the narrative.
I enjoyed the final trial and the supernatural elements, they were worked in well with the mundane world around Tully. Ghosts should definitely be allowed to testify in court. I was engaged by the development of the characters and the inclusion of queer characters was refreshing.
I thought the device of having Tully write her autobiography while she’s waiting for trial and interspersing that with the events going on around her as she is writing, worked well, although it was slightly confusing at times in later chapters.
All in all, I enjoyed it. I got through the book in an afternoon and I couldn’t put it down.