Book Review & Blog Tour – The Butcher’s Daughter by Victoria Glendinning

Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Books

It is 1535 and Agnes Peppin, daughter of a West-country butcher, has been banished, leaving her family home in disgrace to live out the rest of her life cloistered behind the walls of Shaftesbury Abbey. While Agnes grapples with the complex rules and hierarchies of the sisterhood, King Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Head of the Church of England. Religious houses are being formally subjugated, monasteries dissolved, and the great Abbey is no exception to the purge. Cast out with her sisters, Agnes is at last free to be the master of her own fate. But freedom comes at a price as she descends into a world she knows little about, using her wits and testing her moral convictions against her need to survive – by any means necessary…(Synopsis taken from official press release by the publisher)

‘You must know that the life of the Abbey is shot through with dreams, fantasies and denial. And betrayal.’ (The Butcher’s Daughter by Victoria Glendinning)

Narrated as something of a memoir, The Butcher’s Daughter follows the title character herself – Agnes Peppin – during one of the most turbulent and uncertain times in English history. To begin with, I wasn’t entirely sold on her character becoming this strong, resilient woman the synopsis portrays her to be. She enters this tale as a mere teenager, forced to leave her life behind due to having an illegitimate baby and during these chapters I found her to be overly passive, innocent and childlike – as you would expect a girl of her era to act, I suppose. However, upon reaching the conclusion of this book, she’s turned into a completely new woman. The amount of stress and upheaval she is forced to endure throughout this novel is incredible, and I urge anyone who is into feminism and strong female characters to take a look at her gripping story – as long as you’re open to historical fiction of course.

The descriptions of the settings were beautifully written, and as with books based on real life places and events, you can gain an even bigger understanding of where the story follows by going online and looking for yourself – something I did regularly. Not only that, but there’s only so much information an author can give you during the course of a novel without it feeling too much like a textbook and less like a work of fiction, so being able to do your own research about certain events weaved into The Butcher’s Daughter was a lot of fun. Although, it must be said that Glendinning definitely did a fantastic job of making sure the reader was informed enough to not get lost along the way.

Overall, I found the plot to be incredibly immersive and as someone who doesn’t read a lot of historical fiction, I do occasionally find it hard to grasp the language, especially combined with the real historical events. I didn’t have that problem here aside from maybe the first couple of chapters but I can easily put that down to a a bit of a literary culture shock, if you will.

Whilst I do think my enjoyment of this novel would have been higher if I read historical fiction regularly, I don’t think you need to be a lover of the genre to like this. Perhaps the only thing you will need is a willingness to branch out and do a bit of research and have at least a mild interest in the Tudor period. I genuinely thought this was a fantastic novel and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Not only that, but my head feels wonderfully full of newfound knowledge and any book that makes me feel like I’ve learnt something valuable is one I think people need to pick up!

Authority belongs to men. Their authority cannot be denied because it is not an idea. It is fact. Yet I do not wish I were a man. So many men are like children, they cannot think beyond their own concerns and desires, and they tailor their opinions and allegiances to serve the same.’ (The Butcher’s Daughter by Victoria Glendinning)

Review written by Tilly.

Disclaimer – We received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts given are entirely our own.

Buy a copy from your preferred retailer here. Please be aware when ordering from Wordery, I am affiliate and do receive a small commission when you use my link to purchase the book. WorderyAmazon UKAmazon US Book DepositoryBlackwell’s Waterstones

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Victoria Glendinning is a British biographer, critic, broadcaster and novelist. Born in Sheffield and educated at Oxford where she studied modern languages, she later worked for The TLS. She is an Honorary Vice-President of English PEN, winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, was appointed a CBE in 1998, is the twice winner of the Whitbread Biography award and Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature. A regular contributor of articles and reviews to various UK newspapers and magazines, she is also the author of three widely acclaimed novels: The Grown-Ups, Electricity, and Flight. (Author bio provided by Duckworth)

This blog post has been written as part of a blog tour. We are the fourth stop, but we’ll provide links to other reviewers posts as they go live. Many thanks to Duckworth Books for allowing us to participate.

Day One – She Reads Novels and The Average Reader, Day Two – On The Shelf Books, Day Four – Paperback Piano


Book Review – The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Book Reviews, Books

Henry ‘Monty’ Montague was bred to be a gentleman. Born into the arms of aristocratic parents in 18th century England hasn’t been easy on him, but I suppose despite being kicked out of a world famous boys school, harbouring romantic, and lots of sexual feelings for his male best friend, and having to put up with a brand new ‘goblin’ sibling, he’s still got it pretty good. Upon embarking on his Grand Tour, the historical version of a gap year, in which he intends to spend a lot of time screwing around with a considerable amount of beautiful women, and finally, maybe getting closer to his best friend Percy, things begin to go awry fairly quickly when he steals something he really shouldn’t have. Along with Percy, and his highly intelligent sister, he embarks on a perilous journey across Europe, in a sass filled, whirlwind adventure. It’s not exactly the Grand Tour he expected, but it might just end up being the Grand Tour of his dreams.

“We’re not courting trouble,” I say. “Flirting with it, at most.” (Henry Montague – The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee)

Henry Montague, or Monty as he’s known throughout the novel is a sassy, sleazy and downright selfish excuse for a man. He also just so happens to be incredibly charming, funny and lovable. I don’t quite know how Mackenzi Lee managed to craft him into such a multi-layered gent but she did, and he’s one of my favourite fictional characters of the year. At the beginning of the book, we’re led to believe that he doesn’t have much time for anything bar enjoying sex, drinking and gambling, all the typical pursuits of a young man just about to embark on his Grand Tour but the novel actually takes a pretty dark turn, and we begin to establish just why he is the way he is, and why he doesn’t think himself better than the lifestyle he lives.

Percy, Monty’s best friend and love interest, thankfully brings a more respectable atmosphere to the duo. He’s gentle, kind-hearted and unfortunately battling his own inner demons, which again get revealed as the plot furthers. In my personal opinion, his character arc was a lot more interesting in terms of the 18th century setting. Not only is he biracial -which in those days pretty much condemned you to a very isolated life at best, and slavery at worst – but he’s also harbouring a pretty big secret, one that once again, was a very controversial thing to have connected to you in that time period. Given the extensive research Lee did prior to writing Gentleman’s Guide, I found it fascinating further discovering just how badly certain minorities were treated and it’s something I think I’m going to delve into myself in the future.

Amongst the main trio, we also have Monty’s little sister, Felicity who is essentially Hermione Granger except hundreds of years in the past. She’s got way too many obvious brain cells for a lady of her century, and for that reason, she shies away from traditional feminine values, instead filling her head with alchemy and medicine. Felicity was a breath of fresh air from the plentiful amount of men in this story, and she’s a great role model for the teenage girls reading this. Feisty, brainy and all around kick-ass, she’s a woman who knows her own worth and she was my favourite character by far.

Unfortunately with this novel, I expected it to take an entirely different direction to where it ended up going. I wanted a story about a summer of debauchery and vulgarity from the mindset of the upper class, whereas it ended up veering more towards the slightly fantastical side with a quest regarding alchemy. The mid-section set in Barcelona was well described and provided a beautiful backdrop, but I became bored and wanted to go back to the fun I was having prior to the events that took place there. It picked up speed again on the high seas, but that segment had already diminished my overall enjoyment too much to recapture the fun spirit I’d started with.

I actually listened to this via audiobook whilst reading along with my physical copy and I don’t believe I would have liked this nearly as much without the wonderful narrator Christian Coulson. He provided such a humorous approach to Monty, and didn’t hold back in doing any of the European accents he was obliged to do. It was a truly spectacular listen.

The heavy topics it dealt with such as abuse, homophobia, racism and sexism, were handled carefully and I commend Mackenzi Lee for successfully entwining a fluffy, queer romance novel with such tricky subject matters. I also applaud her for going near a time period that Young Adult authors don’t tend to touch upon very often and it was a welcome respite from the ever-growing community of World War ll novelists. As far as I’m concerned, whilst historical fiction is far from being my favourite, it’s an important one to try and explore further, and the more variations we have within YA, the better.

I’ll definitely take a look at the second book, primarily because it’s from Felicity’s perspective next time round. However, I’m certainly in no rush to pick it up. Overall, The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue was a humorous take on 18th century Europe, complete with a lot of heart and an unfortunate change in direction halfway through the novel. I’d still urge anyone who enjoys a gay romance, historical elements and sassy men to give this a try because it’s definitely an unexpected reading experience.

“Against the sky, the stars crown him, marking the edges of his silhouette like he is a constellation of himself.”  (The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee)

Review written by Tilly.

Buy a copy from your preferred retailer here. Please be aware when ordering from Wordery, I am affiliate and do receive a small commission when you use my link to purchase the book. WorderyAmazon UK Amazon USBook DepositoryBlackwell’sWaterstones

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Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Simmons College. She is the New York Times bestselling author of multiple novels. She is also the author of BYGONE BADASS BROADS (Abrams, 2018), a collection of short biographies of amazing women from history you probably don’t know about but definitely should, based on her popular twitter series of the same name.  When not writing, she works as an independent bookseller, drinks too much Diet Coke, and romps with her St. Bernard, Queenie. (Author bio and photo taken from Goodreads)