By Emma Donoghue
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780151006724, 352pp.)
Publication Date: June 2001
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Slammerkin: A loose gown; a loose woman.
Born to rough cloth in Hogarth's London, but longing for silk, Mary Saunders's eye for a shiny red ribbon leads her to prostitution at a young age. A dangerous misstep sends her fleeing to Monmouth, and the position of household seamstress, the ordinary life of an ordinary girl with no expectations. But Mary has known freedom, and having never known love, it is freedom that motivates her. Mary asks herself if the prostitute who hires out her body is more or less free than the "honest woman" locked into marriage, or the servant who runs a household not her own? And is either as free as a man? Ultimately, Mary remains true only to the three rules she learned on the streets: Never give up your liberty. Clothes make the woman. Clothes are the greatest lie ever told.
Born in Ireland, Emma Donoghue spent many years in England and now lives in Canada. She is the author of Slammerkin as well as two other novels, a collection of short stories, and a collection of fairy tales. Her novels have been translated into eight languages.
- Slammerkin is based on a real case of a girl who killed her employer in 1763. How do you think this factual basis has affected Emma Donoghue”s writing of the novel? If you had not known that it was based on fact, would you have read Slammerkin differently?