The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Disclaimer: As a member of Penguin's First to Read program, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.
Part 1: From The Book Cover
The Crimson Petal and the White meets Fight Club: A page-turning novel set in the world of female pugilists and their patrons in late eighteenth-century England.
Moving from a filthy brothel to a fine manor house, from the world of street fighters to the world of champions, The Fair Fight is a vivid, propulsive historical novel announcing the arrival of a dynamic new talent.
Born in a brothel, Ruth doesn’t expect much for herself beyond abuse. While her sister’s beauty affords a certain degree of comfort, Ruth’s harsh looks set her on a path of drudgery. That is until she meets pugilist patron George Dryer and discovers her true calling—fighting bare knuckles in the prize rings of Bristol.
Manor-born Charlotte has a different cross to bear. Scarred by smallpox, stifled by her social and romantic options, and trapped in twisted power games with her wastrel brother, she is desperate for an escape.
After a disastrous, life-changing fight sidelines Ruth, the two women meet, and it alters the perspectives of both of them. When Charlotte presents Ruth with an extraordinary proposition, Ruth pushes dainty Charlotte to enter the ring herself and learn the power of her own strength.
A gripping, page-turning story about people struggling to transcend the circumstances into which they were born and fighting for their own places in society, The Fair Fight is a raucous, intoxicating tale of courage, reinvention, and fighting one’s way to the top.
Part 2: Recommendation
"In our house, a girl's worth could be counted out in pounds, shillings, and pence, and that was all the worth that mattered... It's the same choice children are given the world over: be of service or be gone." This line I found to be true for both rich and poor kids. For the rich it is to prepare their children to take over the family business one day and grow the business and for the poor, it is to help bring in money to feed the family.
Ma's character is a shrew but a very good business woman as proven by the line "Ma charged a good rate... The cullies paid it, because Ma never would stand to see a cull robbed at the convent...There were houses like ours where a fellow had to keep an eye on his coat and boots, never mind his pocket-watch, but Ma wouldn't stomach it and all the neighborhood knew it." which is good business practice.
I found Dora to be quite cruel when she said, "But no one will pay you, Ruth, to sleep or otherwise."
"Mine wasn't a mug any young lad would find to make sheep-eyes at. And yet—there he was. I hated him, and yet I looked for him too." This line from Ruth made me smile because eventually, she falls in love with Tom's goodness and kindness.
"I had often felt great annoyance toward Perry, but never as pure a hatred as I felt then. It was so powerful that I could not hold still." Normally, a person could not hate their sibling but Perry is beyond cruel and I can understand why Charlotte feels this way towards her only living brother.
Anna Freeman efficiently sums up Perry character in this quote. "I am master of this house and you will obey me... You are willing to see me left heartbroken; I will see you left with nothing... Leave George be, or we shall all be miserable. I will never allow you to be otherwise." After reading this line, my dislike for Perry intensified and thankfully towards the second half of the book, Perry didn't speak much because most of the time he is too inebriated to talk or do anything.
"I ain't returned. I have been left. I've not had a crumb to eat for days. They've left me here." I felt bad for Ruth, for the desperation to survive that drove her to beg a man she dislikes to take her with him.
With three narrators, each telling their story that somehow continues where the other left off feels quite strange but somehow makes sense to me. I wonder if by reading all the sections from one narrator from start to finish then doing the same for the other two will make for a more enjoyable experience? I must admit that I don't care much for Ruth's voice and I don't trust George and I'm very fascinated by Charlotte because there's two sides to her personality and it was getting to Charlotte's section that kept me turning the pages because I wanted to know what happens to her and when or how she'll finally show everyone who she really is.
Overall, this is a very interesting, well-written piece of literary fiction that may or may not read the same way.
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