The final book in April’s 12 in 12 Challenge to read historical novels and one finished just as the month came to an end is The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman. It is set at the end of the eighteenth century in Bristol. It is really the story of two women, Ruth who was born in a brothel and became a boxer, and Charlotte who was born to money but who has always been controlled by the men in her life. The book connects the two with boxing and gambling – the poor people do the boxing and the rich people stage the fights and gamble on the results.
The book is told from three viewpoints which alternate – the two women and George who is connected with Charlotte’s brother and Ruth’s sister. No one in this book is without flaws and the characters betray, ignore and abuse one another as the story progresses. I have to say that I have never been much of a fan of boxing and I certainly don’t consider it to be any sort of noble art or occupation but, despite portraying the brutality of the sport, the author does make you understand its attraction to the characters who either participate or watch.
The book contains lots of different themes including sex work, the freedom or women, gay sexuality, self-harm and destructive behaviour. Everyone seems to drink a lot too. The vulnerability of those at the margins of society means that they are open to exploitation by others and this might include those who are poor, are women, are gay, are disfigured or are weak. Some of this makes for uncomfortable reading and it is satisfying when a character overcomes these disadvantages and makes a happy life for themselves.
I enjoyed this book and certainly had no idea where the author was going to take the story. The depiction of the time was good and I enjoyed the glimpses of Bristol as it is a city where I have lived and which I know quite well.
This is my final historical novel of the month. In the next day or so I shall post a wrap up of the month in which I muse about some of the books I have read in this month and look ahead to May’s theme.