Let’s Get Lewd: Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue

June 23, 2014 Historical Fiction, Women's Studies 38

Greetings Bookworms!

You’re in for a treat today, because we’re talking about Emma Donoghue. Again. She’s awesome, what can I say? After reading and loving Frog Music a while back (review) I decided I needed MORE of Emma Donoghue’s historical fiction, and if prostitutes were involved, all the better. Luckily, Emma Donoghue’s back list offered me Slammerkinand oh my stars, I’m glad of it!

slammerkinSlammerkin tells the sordid tale of Mary Saunders. Born into the working class of 18th Century London, Mary’s prospects are limited. Though she is afforded the advantage of attending school, she is prepared only to work in domestic service or follow in her seamstress mother’s footsteps. Disheartened by her lack of opportunity, Mary soon chases a fancy into dire circumstances and is forced to take up prostitution as a means to support herself. Oh yeah. I should probably mention that she’s all of 14 at the time. 14!

Selling your body isn’t glamorous work by any means, but Mary finds it offers her a sense liberty she wouldn’t have enjoyed in a “virtuous” occupation. She becomes obsessed with clothing- the flashier the better. It was her lust for a red ribbon that started her down her path to depravity, after all.

THIS BOOK, you guys! Holy cow, I loved it so hard! Mary’s story was so captivating. And!!! I didn’t realize until the end that it was based on a true story! Donoghue did a glorious job of capturing 18th Century London’s underworld, and didn’t sugar coat the grimy details (STDs are no joke, y’all, especially before antibiotics. Yowza.) I am endlessly fascinated by the plight of women throughout the ages. Even though the current world is far from perfect, I’m SO GRATEFUL to have opportunities beyond becoming a servant or a prostitute. Sheesh.

My love for hooker books has been very well documented. I feel a little creepy about it, to be honest, but I suppose everyone has their fixations. Is there a controversial/tragic/less than savory topic that you simply can’t get enough of, Bookworms? 

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38 Responses to “Let’s Get Lewd: Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue”

  1. Heather @ Capricious Reader

    OMG You just read this????? I read it back when it first came and and DUDE, DID I LOVE IT. It’s why I’ll read anything by Emma Donoghue. Now I feel the need to go back and read it again. Because I totally kept my copy.

  2. Megan M.

    If I’m reading a book with a prostitute in it, they’re the murder victim, not the main character. But that’s just because I love mysteries and well… prostitutes tend to get murdered, you know? The one prostitute story I don’t want to read is the contemporary romance with the “heart of gold” hooker who gets “saved” by love. I’ve seen Pretty Woman and there’s no way anyone is going to do that story better.

    • Words For Worms

      Pfft. I don’t read heart of gold hooker books. I read gritty hooker books. I agree with you. Pretty Woman owned it, anything else would feel like a cheap knock off.

  3. Leila @ Readers' Oasis

    I read this before I read Frog Music … and although I appreciated the intense realism of Slammerkin, I much preferred Frog Music. To me, Frog Music is tighter and and an all-around stronger novel. But I’m really glad that Frog Music has inspired others to go back to Donoghue’s previous historical fiction!

  4. Andi (@estellasrevenge)

    I’ve seriously been lusting after this one on my TBR. I’m having a hard time getting into anything after the oh-so-glorious RUBY, so this might be THE THING. I hope this is the thing.

  5. Jennine G.

    I don’t know what’s more intriguing, the sound of this book or your obsession with prostitutes! Haha! I know what you mean about the plight of women through the ages…it never ceases to boggle my mind how women stood in society at any time except now! I tend to like Holocaust books, which I know many people do, but it always sounds weird/wrong/morbid to say, “Oh, I love Holocaust books.”

    • Words For Worms

      Yes! That’s what I’m talking about. It sounds SO WEIRD to say “mmmm I love me some Holocaust books” but, you know, you like them. That’s like me and the hookers!

  6. Alena Murguia

    I’m so glad you have a safe place to share your love of hooker books. Seriously, I too have an Emma Donoghue obsession, although I did’t love this one as much as you. I was curious to go back to look at my review (3 stars). My observation: I love that Donoghue turns concepts like “liberty” and “freedom” on their heads in relation to sexuality and race. That was the most intelligent aspect of the writing for me.

  7. Laurie C

    I recently listened to the audio version of Frog Music and thought it was excellent! Trying to think of an unsavory obsession, I can only come up with adultery. For a while, I seemed read a lot of books about married people who had affairs, but maybe that was just so common in literary fiction that it was hard to avoid!

    • Laura

      Does the audio version include any of the music? I hope so, it would be so cool to really hear it along with the story…

    • Words For Worms

      LOL, I’ve gotten into ruts like that before where it just feels like every book I pick up has the same thing going on. For a while with me it was single chance encounters and unintended pregnancy.

  8. Catherine

    I liked Slammerkin so much more than Frog Music which just fell flat for me. Hooker books?! Hell yeah! Have you read The Crimson Petal and the White? Or…damn, the title is gone. I’ll email you if I can ever remember it!

    • Words For Worms

      I have The Crimson Petal and the White on my kindle just waiting for me to tackle. It’s probably going to be the next chunkster I take on.

  9. AMB (Koiviolet)

    This book sounds really interesting! I loved Frog Music, but I did have an issue with the way Donoghue seemed to glamorize prostitution without providing a more nuanced analysis of whether the main character’s profession was really a free choice (instead of just a way of coping with limited economic means and other difficult circumstances). I wonder if I’d have the same issue with Slammerkin.

    • Words For Worms

      You know, Slammerkin removes ALL of the glamour from prostitution. It was actually really interested to have read these within a few months of each other. The differences were striking.

  10. Melinda

    I may not have LOVED Frog Music, but I liked it very much! Emma Donoghue is a talented writer and I do think this one sounds like something I would read. I actually do like the stories about prostitutes!

  11. Laura

    Yeah, Slammerkin is my fav Donoghue book by far. I suppose I have a bit of a fixation too… The Crimson Petal and the White comes to mind (have you read it? You must!)

  12. Athira

    I have only read one Emma Donoghue book (ROOM) and didn’t enjoy it much but I liked her writing so I want to read more of her works. This one is going on my list!

  13. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I read this and I . . . did not love it. Alas! I wanted to! But I just got too depressed, and as well, this isn’t my time period, the 18th century. It’s got all the bad things about the Victorian era and none of the things I love about the Victorian era. That isn’t the book’s fault. :p

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