Set in London and Monmouth in the late 1700s, this is an extraordinary novel about Mary Saunders, the young daughter of a poor seamstress. Mary hungers greedily for fine clothes and ribbons, as people of her class do for food and warmth. It's a hunger that lures her into prostitution at the age of thirteen. Mary is thrown out by her distraught mother when she gets pregnant and almost dies on the dangerous streets of London. Her saviour is Doll - a prostitute. Mary roams London freely with Doll, selling her body to all manner of 'cullies', dressed whorishly in colourful, gaudy dresses with a painted red smile.Faced with bad debts and threats upon her life she eventually flees to Monmouth, her mother's hometown, where she attempts to start a new life as a maid in Mrs Jones's house. But Mary soon discovers that she can't escape her past and just how dearly people like her pay for yearnings not fitting to their class in society...
A love story. A gamble. A battle. Let the games begin.It's an era of looming war, and the erosion of freedom in the name of national security. A time of high art and big business, trashy spectacles and financial disasters. Celebrities are hounded by journalists, who serve up private passions alongside public crises. Marriages stretch or break, and so do friendships; political liaisons prove as dangerous as erotic ones. In Parliament, on stage, in the bedroom, at the race track, round the dinner table, old loyalties are wrenched by the winds of change. The World - as elite calls itself - is fighting to survive these chaotic times.
How do you make conversation with a sperm donor? How do you say someone's novel is drivel? Would you give a screaming baby brandy? In what words would you tell your girlfriend to pluck a hair on her chin?Touchy Subjects is about things that make people wince: taboos, controversies, secrets and lies. Some of the events that characters crash into are grand, tragic ones: miscarriage, overdose, missing persons, a mother who deserts her children. Other topics, like religion and money, are not inherently taboo, but they can cause acute discomfort because people disagree so vehemently. Many of these stories are about the spectrum of constrained, convoluted feeling that runs from awkwardness through embarrassment to shame.
The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits is a book of fictions, but they are also true. Over the last ten years, I have often stumbled over a scrap of history so fascinating that I had to stop whatever I was doing and write a story about it. My sources are the flotsam and jetsam of the last seven hundred years of British and Irish life: surgical case-notes; trial records; a plague ballad; theological pamphlets; a painting of two girls in a garden; an articulated skeleton. Some of the ghosts in this collection have famous names; others were written off as cripples, children, half-breeds, freaks and nobodies. The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits is named for Mary Toft, who in 1726 managed to convince half England that she had done just that.So this book is what I have to show for ten years of sporadic grave-robbing, ferreting out forgotten puzzles and peculiar incidents, asking 'What really happened?', but also, 'What if?