Cherylcan's Blog

Life and Literature

Review of Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue

All for want of a ribbon, beautiful clothes, and an ambition beyond her station, Mary Saunders begins her descent. Even though they are not well off and Mary’s half brother is the pride of her new husband; her mother, adhering to Mary’s dead father’s wishes, allows her to stay in school longer than most of her peers. Dismissing the respectable choices of going into service or being apprenticed to a dressmaker, she dreams bigger and better. The refusal leads to a fight with her mother and a night in the street where she starts making poor choices and lends credence to the title of the book Slammerkin. A slammerkin is a loose dress or a loose woman both of which play prominently in the conclusion.

Mary is a character who has such an independent streak, that you want her to succeed, but she continually sabotages her good fortune. She unable or unwilling to see a real chance at a better life, until she throws it away; she throws a number of chances away. Although she tries, and I want to believe she is good at heart, there really is no way she can allow herself to submit to her station.

I loved this insight into eighteenth century society with its limited roles for women. The characters and their society stay with you long after you finish reading. It is the authenticity of character and voice that moves the story along. I enjoyed the different viewpoints in the Monmouth. It really allowed insight into the confines of society in this period. Everyone trapped by their role, and the punishment to those who tried to move beyond their station or pushed the limits of the law.

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