An Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney
|An Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: The ups and downs of an 18th century orphan, from early life to Newgate condemned cell. Sometimes a romp, sometimes poignantly serious yet always seasoned with wit and genteel wording. It's been compared with Fanny Hill but we think it's subtler and better.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: November 2016|
It was when Tully gained a step-mother that her education really started. That was the beginning of the road to discovery. The discovery that she can realise ghosts for others, that she can escape the cruelty of an alcoholic father and the discovery of the income and pleasure her body can generate. That, in turn, leads to the rather classy Fairy House brothel and, now, the condemned cell in Newgate Prison. As she awaits her fate, Tully writes her autobiography An Almond for a Parrot and allows us to read over her shoulder.
Wray Delaney is a pen name for the justifiably celebrated children's author Sally Gardner which brings us to a very important point we should make clear from the start: this is not a children's novel. No, this is definitely an Adult novel – with a capital 'A'! More of that later.
18th century orphan Tully Truegood is a delight. Both a great guide and a first grade event-magnet, she has a troubled start in life (by both 18th and 21st century standards) which leads in to some surprises and mysteries along the way. Yet she maintains a dry wit throughout the adversity as well as the rompier moments. Yes, as promised, we'd best discuss the rompier moments…
Tully's narrative provides a wonderful blend of erotica and euphemised nuance that delicately powders the language of physical activity with an inoffensive elegance and, indeed, humour. We enter a world of ladies' 'purses' and men's 'maypoles' making the descriptions an easier read for the shyer among us. However if you don't feel that the act of recreational pseudo-reproduction has a place in a novel, this may not be your ideal read.
It's not all horizontal tango… sometimes they're standing up. No, sorry – couldn't resist. It's definitely not all horizontal tango. Tully has a lot going on in her life and a shadow of great menace and danger lurking over it. She is growing while we watch, learning about human nature and her own background as much as, if not more than, her profession.
Sally/Wray also provides a window on the plight of women and the politics tied up with the choice or necessity to go into prostitution. The residents of the Fairy House may have started out avoiding poverty but they come over as being in a very fortunate position compared to those out on the street or in a similar line of work but without the House's protection or scruples. Indeed, the ethos and realities within their world make fascinating reading.
In some ways this book could be the literary love child of Sarah Waters and John Cleland (author of Fanny Hill) with the subtle fantasy dash of Karen Maitland yet it also feels fresh and original. This means that Wray Delaney has written a debut adult story that will generate discussing as well as entertainment, and that's not a bad thing at all.
(Thank you HQ for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you would like a Sally Gardner book that you can recommend to a younger audience, then The Silver Blade (for teens) or Cinderella (for sharing with younger readers). If you enjoy a historic romp we recommend The Kingdom of Bones by Stephen Gallagher, which also contains less of the physicality.
You can read more book reviews or buy An Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy An Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney at Amazon.com.
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