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The Fair Fight: A Novel by Anna Freeman
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The Fair Fight: A Novel

by Anna Freeman

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2062081,246 (3.95)37
  1. 01
    Blindspot by Jane Kamensky (keywestnan)
    keywestnan: This is a very different book in a lot of ways but I think shows similar appreciation for the time period ... and is told from the points of view of two different characters.
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» See also 37 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
This was a fantastic historical novel. 'The Fair Fight' is an excellent and highly original work. It's set in 18th-century England. The novel is told from the point of view of three characters. Ruth, the daughter of a madam who becomes a female boxer that fights against men. The second narrator is George Bowden, a handsome young man with limited prospects who is somewhat weak and lacks the gumption to seize control of his own life. While in school, he meets Perry Sinclair. The two form a loving relationship. Then there is a third narrator, Charlotte Sinclair, Perry's sad, shy sister, who survived the pox that killed her parents, sister, and another brother, but was left horribly scarred.

I absolutely loved the plot and the voices of each character. I did not want to put this book down! ( )
1 vote melaniehope | Jul 3, 2016 |
Female bare-knuckle boxing, in Victorian England? That certainly, got my attention and the book delivered, on all accounts. My only issue is, why isn't this novel buzzing the book community, like an eardrum, after a nasty haymaker?

Ruth was born in a brothel. She is homely but stout and good-hearted. She makes the acquaintance of a wealthy, Bristol merchant, who convinces her to try her hand, in the boxing ring. She takes to fisticuffs, like a dog to a bone.

Ruth is also introduced to the merchant's wife, Charlotte, a bored, unfulfilled, housewife and she also takes interest in Ruth. The story shifts to her perspective and the tale deepens.

This is solid, historical fiction. Smartly written and nicely paced. The author seems to have done her homework, as she captures the tone and rhythms of late 1700s and early 1800s, with an authentic touch.

If this is ringing any of your bells, give it a try and, as a bonus, it worked very well, as an audiobook. ( )
  msf59 | Jun 13, 2016 |
I loved this book. I just loved it. The awesome is just one layer upon another: the plot is fascinating, the characters intriguing, the writing spectacular, the author's story amazing.

Shamefully, I didn't pen my thoughts back in February when I finished this, because I was just back to work from maternity leave and feeling even more sleep-lost and fuzzy-minded than I am now. But ten months later, I'm still obsessed with this book, and I hope I can convey enough of what was brilliant to entice some of you to read it.

Set in the late 1700s, the novel is split between three narrators: Ruth, daughter of a prostitute, who gains notoriety and fame as a female boxer; Charlotte, the pox-scarred wife of Ruth's patron, who takes inspiration from Ruth to find her own rough freedom; and George, friend to Charlotte's husband, and complicated third in an unusual love triangle. The voice of each character is distinct and bold, although my love is devoted to Ruth and Charlotte more than George (who is deliciously slimy at times!).

This is a book about boxing, which isn't not my thing, but don't let that scare you from this uh-mah-zing story. While Freeman doesn't soft pedal the violence of boxing, she also doesn't make it overly grotesque or gruesome; I was uncomfortable but not grossed out, and the disquieting savagery was done artfully, grounded in the story and the characters.

And the characters. I was, and am, obsessed with Ruth and Charlotte. The two women couldn't be more unalike (and occasionally, more unlikable!) but they're captivating, and reveal the rough and polished possibilities for 18th century women in London.

Freeman's narrative style is bold and full of personality (read the first chapter here), and it makes this novel so gripping. There's a rough immediacy that holds up to the crazy plot and the intense characters, but it doesn't overwhelm or detract from the story.

I could not tell anymore how much of the screaming came from my own mouth. I was borne up on the swell of it, I was the sound. We were all howling together, the poor and the quality, the boxing girl and the beast inside my breast. If she was a madwoman, then we were all of us with her, and I had never felt such savage elation, nor known that it existed.

This is a stunning debut novel, the kind of book that makes me so envious my teeth hurt, and it's a top ten read of 2015. (It might be among the ten best reads since I've started blogging, even!)

It comes out in paperback in April 2016, I believe, and you must, must get it. I'll be buying myself a copy! ( )
  unabridgedchick | Dec 16, 2015 |
'The Fair Fight' is set in the world of female prize fighters in early 19th century England, focusing on Ruth, born in a Bristol brothel, who is trained as a fighter by her sister's customer. As her skills improve her confidence grows until she is badly beaten in a fight originally fixed for her to win (allowing her 'sporting gentlemen' masters to earn big betting profits). Her beau, Tom, becomes her master's focus of attention as he is revealed as potential fighter and trains to eventually challenge for Champion of England. A parallel story reveals the lives of the higher born men of who use Ruth and Tom almost as playthings with no regard for them beyond their ability to fight.

The underlying tale here is about the status of women in this society and how, whatever their social standing, they are constrained by the wishes of the men around them. Ruth helps Charlotte to gain confidence and a self-respect that allows her to take control of her life and become the person she wants to be. Ruth and Tom are able to live in reasonable comfort and with a dignity denied to the higher born characters in the book.

Exciting and full of suspense,I found this a gripping story. ( )
  pierthinker | Dec 7, 2015 |
Bristol. A brothel. The late 1700s. Two sisters squabble and scrap, watched by an interested gentlemen visitor. The older sister becomes his molly. The younger sister, Ruth, he sets to boxing professionally at a local pub The Hatchet. It changes Ruth’s life.
I abhor boxing, I hate to see it on television and so I hesitated over this book. I’m glad I didn’t. From page one the book is alive with late 18th century Bristol, everything about it is believable. Most of all I liked Ruth, I wanted to know her story. This meant I got a bit irritated when the story left her and transferred instead to the gentlemen who act as boxing managers and who gamble every night at fights. I had no patience with them, and turned every page wanting more of Ruth.
At the heart of this book are two women trapped by their circumstances, their birthplace, their positions in society. I wanted Ruth to better herself, to see her break away from her origins. Ruth is brothel-born, Charlotte is destined to embroider samplers. Surely they can have nothing in common? Will they meet and what will happen if they do?
To set the novel in its historical context, here are some historical landmarks. In 1789 George Washington was elected President of the United States. The French Revolution of 1789 to 1799 led into the Napoleonic Wars in 1803. In 1796 Edward Jenner administered the first smallpox vaccination, a cure which comes too late for some characters in ‘The Fair Fight’. In 1798 Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’.
Freeman does not back off showing the squalor, the sordid living conditions in the brothel and the boxing injuries which can mean empty stomachs for months. She also shows the richness of the merchant houses, the profusion of liquor and sweetmeats for those who can afford them, the snobbery and bitchiness.
I read to the end to see if Charlotte revolted against the disinterest of her brother and husband, to see if Ruth would be saved by boxing or whether she would return to her roots.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Nov 12, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
For a novel that features boxing it would be appropriate, if kitschy to trot out all of my boxing metaphors. It might be a cliché, but clichés are clichés because they often hold at least a grain of truth: so here I go. The Fair Fight is an absolute knock-out. If this novel was a prize fight it would be the Thriller in Manila. To make myself absolutely clear, leaving the cheesy pugilistic metaphors aside, The Fair Fight is the best book that I have read in a long time.

Like most of the books I review The Fair Fight is an ARC, and I am not allowed to quote from it, and in this instance I am truly sorry. If I could give you just a taste of Ms. Freeman’s prose you would see what an exceptional novel this is. She writes with such passion, wit and power that I wish I could grab you, dear reader, and point at a page and say “read this!”

The Fair Fight is the story of Ruth, born in a brothel and fated to a life of drudgery until she discovers her love of bare-knuckled boxing. We also follow the story of Charlotte, born an aristocrat but scarred by smallpox, trapped by the twisted whims of her drunken brother, and later in a loveless marriage with a man, Granville, who cares only for gambling. He manages, or exploits, first Ruth, and later her husband Tom, whom he believes can be the Champion. Eventually Ruth meets Charlotte, and begins to teach her how to box, setting them both on a journey that will change both of their lives.

The narration is shared between Ruth, and Charlotte, and George, another sporting gentleman who is Granville’s friend and confidante. All of their voices are different, distinct, and beautifully realized. Although I was practically cheering by the end of this book it is not all flowers and rainbows. Like boxing its beauty is bound up with violence, and blood. Fighting is at the heart of this book, and no one in it fights harder than the two women at the story’s center. They have a lot to fight about, as well; the class system, poverty, and the absolutely crappy way in which women were treated in the early nineteenth century.

Their bravery in facing a world in which most of the deck is stacked against them is truly inspiring, and although this book is full of hard knocks, Ms. Freeman has such style and tells her tale with so much heart and caring that almost found my jumping up and down at the end. I came to care for these character so much that I literally dreaded the end, even as a rushed toward it, propelled by the sheer force of Ms. Freeman’s story.

To return to my earlier metaphors, Anna is the Champ.

Review by: Mark Palm
Full reviews available at: http://www.thebookendfamily.weebly.co...
 
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"A debut historical novel set within the world of female pugilists and their patrons in late eighteenth century Bristol"--

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