Savage Girl by Jean Zimmerman

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Savage Girl by Jean Zimmerman

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: Compellingly rich historical fiction, The Savage Girl is an entertaining read with wonderful elements, and yet never quite achieves its potential
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 402 Date: March 2014
Publisher: Viking Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0670014859

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Bronwyn is a wild and seemingly mute sideshow attraction, known to all as Savage Girl. Apparently raised by wolves, she is swiftly adopted by a wealthy Manhattan couple, and, once cleaned up, introduced to high society. Darkly beautiful, intelligent, and with no end of suitors, Bronwyn seems destined for a good life – until these suitors start turning up dead. Could the Savage Girl be living up to her name? Or is someone else the killer?

Savage Girl is a vivid, colourful novel, bringing the America of the 1870's to bright and immediate life, and telling a fascinating, if flawed, tale. A book that is part murder mystery, part sociological study, Savage Girl sweeps the reader from the Wild West back to the opulent drawing rooms of Manhattan high society. The lead character, Hugo, is initially compelling and likeable – a young man struggling to find his place in the world, who finds himself falling for the wild and beautiful young woman who has come to live as his sister. However, as the book continues he becomes far more of an unreliable narrator, and gradually becomes less and less likeable. The wild girl herself, or Bronwyn as she becomes known, is no less fascinating – veering wildly between moods and adapting to a life of comfort and luxury, albeit whilst being constantly judged and examined by all and sundry. Neither of the two are particularly sympathetic for most of the book – and as a result is does become hard to empathise or become truly gripped by the events that take place.

The murder mystery threaded throughout is certainly intriguing though – and gory to boot. Could Bronwyn really be regressing to her previous feral state? Could Hugo truly be mentally disturbed? The answer is not what I was expecting – although it's an enjoyable conclusion nonetheless. Whilst I felt the book fell down in terms of characterisation, and the intricate descriptions making this rather a slow read, Savage Girl does have some wonderfully interesting moments and ideas. The fact that Bronwyn is taken out of her side show life by the Delegate family, and placed into their opulent Manhattan home in order to be studied and questioned, does make them a rather morally objectionable family – seemingly collecting freaks and oddities in order to expand a bizarre collection. Likewise, reading Hugo's transition from nervous youth to severely troubled adult is a fascinating one, working in tandem with Bronwyn's change from wild mute to well-spoken society lady. That said, her transition does occur rather too fast in order to be truly believable.

An over the top tale that revels in its period setting and slightly grotesque characters, Savage Girl is a fun read, although one that can drag at times. However, if you're willing to suspend your disbelief and to continue turning the pages, you'll be intrigued by the Delegates, by Manhattan, and by the Savage Girl…

Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.

For further reading I would recommend The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin. An involving period crime tale that takes in the New Orleans of the late 1910's, and features a very familiar trumpeter in the lead role, The Axeman's Jazz combines period detail with a gripping crime story in a very skillful manner. You might also enjoy The Painted Queen: an Amelia Peabody Mystery by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess.

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Buy Savage Girl by Jean Zimmerman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Savage Girl by Jean Zimmerman at


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