After reading two bleak stories I needed a complete change. For this reason I chose an historical first novel by Anna Freeman titled The Fair Fight. It turned out to be a rollickin’ good yarn from beginning to end.
When I read historical fiction I want to be transported to another time and place. I want true characters that I can commit to and stories I can believe in. I want real voices and language that evokes the period of the time. I was lucky as Anna Freeman skilfully and naturally blends these elements to create a story that comes alive.
From the first pages I was immersed in 18th century Bristol where pugilists, brothels, brawling and gambling rule the day. I enjoyed discovering and absorbing new/old words like “mollies”, “pugs”, “cullies”, and “swells”.
Three of the main characters, Ruth, Charlotte and George, are the storytellers with each voice adding suspense and vibrancy to the drama. This is a well realised and oftentimes brutal tale.
By the end I wanted to know more about women and boxing during these times so turned to the 17th – 18th Century Burney Collection of Historical Newspapers available from the library.
I found an advertisement from Oct 1st, 1726, about a Mary Welch and Elizabeth Stokes. They talk up their fighting skills to excite readers and announce they will “mount at Four” and “fight in cloth Jackets, short Petticoats coming just below the Knee, Holland Drawers, white Stockings, and Pumps”. Cor blimey!
A fascinating account that all started with historical fiction.