My 12 in 12 Challenge – March – Biographies and Memoirs – Book 2

Book 2 of my 12 in 12 Challenge for March is also a biography but, in this case, of two men rather than a family. It is Fanny and Stella by Neil McKenna.

The book tells the story surrounding an infamous court case in Victorian London. The case was against two young men dressed as women who were accused of acts of sodomy and conspiracy to encourage others to do the same. The author details what happened at the trial but also tells us the life story of the individuals concerned and the environment in which they lived.

Fanny and Stella lived as women most of the time, when they could. They developed lives as women and both acted on the stage as well as becoming sex workers. They also lived as part of a community of similar people on the outskirts of society because of their sexual orientation and attractions.

For me, at least, this book was an insight into a world that I didn’t know anything about. Fanny and Stella were at the centre of a community which had its own events, way of talking, places that it frequented and ways of life. It was also a community that was seen as dangerous to the authorities and those who were not part of it. These people were at the margins of society and that made them vulnerable to physical attack, arrest and abuse.

I recommend this book because it is well written. The author celebrates the life lived by those with non-heterosexual sexual desires while being clear about its risks and difficulties. The characters become very real because of the way in which they are described and the book is quite an easy read.

An unusual biography but one well worth reading.