A Dickensian tour de force set in a 19th century city beset by a cholera epidemic.
Sunderland during the cholera epidemic of 1832 is bitterly divided between the rich, who believe they have nothing to fear from a disease which afflicts mainly the poor, and the disenfranchised, who fear cholera is part of a plot to exterminate them. Through the streets of the city walks Gustine, a prostitute, followed by the Eye, an old woman paid by her pimp to keep Gustine under constant surveillance. Gustine has joined forces with a surgeon forced out of Edinburgh in the wake of the Burke & Hare body-snatching scandal. Henry operates an Anatomy School but has no bodies with which to teach; Gustine, moving among the week and dying, comes across bodies all the time. He believes she can help him advance medical science, and she believes if he becomes a better doctor, he can save the life of her critically ill baby.
'Sheri Holman vividly and convincingly conjures a fully-textured fictive past peopled with strange and true characters' - Charles Frazier
Sheri Holman vividly and convincingly conjures a fully-textured fictive past peopled with strange and true characters - Charles Frazier
'A Southern Gothic imagination applied to graveyard horrors in the anatomy schools of nineteenth century England in the grip of the worst cholera epidemic in history. Sheri Holman writes with extraordinary assurance and style' - Miranda Seymour
I found it a riveting read, thoroughly enjoyable. From the first page I felt confident that I was in the hands of a real writer with an individual voice - literate, witty, intelligent, thoughtful - Kate Atkinson
'Quite Dickensian, in the best sense . . . the vigour of the style - tremendous, confident pace (I always like a novel where one know the writer is tightly in charge of the reins) is matched by a knowledge of the period and its concerns which seems to come from within. By half way I was quite enthralled . . . This is one of those historical novels which as a passionate, angry feel to it, making it more than entertainment (though it is certainly entertaining.) It bothers to get right not just the detail of clothes/food/place but the tempo of the times - that is a very difficult thing to pull off' - Margaret Forster
A page-turning scenario of body-snatching and broken promises . . . The novel's period detail is as terrifying as any more fanciful flights. Holman is a confident writer with a high-voltage imagination - Independent
Impressive and crackling authenticity . . . The smells, sounds and hideous sights of the time and place are convincingly reproduced with confidence and literary poise - The Times
'I found it a riveting read, thoroughly enjoyable. From the first page I felt confident that I was in the hands of a real writer with an individual voice - literate, witty, intelligent, thoughtful - I still don't understand how she grew up in " rural Virginia" and wrote this book' - Kate Atkinson