butchercover Anne Jaccob is coming of age in late eighteenth-century London, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Girls then were in many ways freer than their counterparts 100 years later: in the 1760s, they could at least venture out without a chaperone and spoke with a candour that would have scandalized a Victorian drawing room. But those like Anne led lives that were for the most part stiflingly narrow and sequestered.

“This is a dark, weird, gloriously feminist story of a girl in 1762 pushing against the limits of her role and a dark love story.” Elle UK MagazineBest New Books of 2016

It is Anne’s misfortune that her father is an ill-tempered bully who has no patience for women’s education and lambasts the cook daily for sport.  When she is taken advantage of by her tutor — a great friend of her father’s — and is set up to marry a squeamish snob named Simeon Onions, she begins to realize just how powerless she is in Victorian society.

“This is historical fiction as I’ve never encountered it before: full of viscera, snarling humour, and obsessive desire. I loved it.” — Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites

It is from these inauspicious seeds that the protagonist grows, a clever, spiky, sharp-pointed thistle of a girl but one with a huge untapped capacity for devotion.Anne is uncompromising, brutal, the kind of girl who will cheerfully pray for another’s unhappy end. And yet, and this is Ellis’s great achievement, Anne remains, for all her clear-eyed callousness, a funny, hopeful, vulnerable child. Shrivelled from lack of love and attention, seemingly free from scruples or remorse, she is nonetheless capable of great warmth. And though she lies to anyone who will listen, when she falls for Fub, the butcher’s boy, the rough-edged tussle and spar of their increasingly intense flirtation, all knife tricks and jokes and showing off, is shot through with moments of pure emotional truth.

“…a sharp eye and a sharper wit.” The Guardian

Dark and sweeping, The Butcher’s Hook is a richly textured debut featuring one of the most memorable characters in fiction.


The Butcher’s Hook

by Janet Ellis

House of Anansi Press


Trade paperback with flaps, $22.95

Available now

Order from the University of Toronto Press, or by contacting Martin Sales Agency

Leave a Reply