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NOTE: THIS REVIEW WAS FIRST PUBLISHED ON INSTAGRAM AS PART OF ‘THE HOME SELF-ISOLATION LIBRARY: BOOKS TO TURN TO IN DIFFICULT TIMES’

“Born in a Bristol brothel at the end of the 19th century, Ruth Webber, her toe upon the scratch, is ready to face all comers. Lady Charlotte Sinclair, scarred with small pox and bullied by her boorish brother, is on the verge of smashing the bonds of convention that have held her so long. George Bowden, without inheritance or title, is prepared to do whatever it takes to make his way in the world. Let the fight begin…”

A historical novel about women boxers – it’s a surprising subject. But in 18th-century England, as boxing formalised into a sport, women stepped into the ring too. Predictably, they were treated as sideshow freaks – but to the two women at the heart of this novel the sport brings self-respect and independence.

ESCAPISM: 8/10

A cracking good story, get ready to be transported to 18th-century Bristol in all its grimy, gutsy glory.

REASSURANCE: 6/10

Few novels have made me realise how very far we’ve travelled from the poverty, violence and misogyny of the past. (Though clearly not far enough.)

DISCOMFORT LEVEL: 7/10

Life in the 18th century wasn’t pretty – especially for women. Trigger warnings of all types.

LIKELIHOOD OF FINISHING: 8/10

With the unforgettable Ruth and Charlotte at its heart, you’ll stick with this novel to the last.

WRITING: 8/10

Immediate, full of character, and brimming with 18th-century slang, it’s a brilliant debut novel from Anna Freeman.

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