Far removed from her Pen name of Sally Gardner, (the award-winning children’s author) comes this delightful, debut, unique adult read that is captivating and thoroughly absorbing.
From a peculiar book title, comes an original, historical, supernatural and erotic fictional tale. It is set in 1756 and opens with Tully Truegood, a whore being held in Newgate Prison, London after admitting to murder. Pregnant and likely to hang, she captures her life story in writing to while away the time. What is revealed is the incredible life story of Tully prior to her arrest and imprisonment.
It is a tale of a young girl, largely ignored by her widowed father and kept virtually imprisoned in her own home. Her household cook acting more of a mentor and guide in the absence of anybody else. Consuming more alcohol and with gambling problems, life gets harder and so Tully is used as a chambermaid in her own home. Forced to marry a seaman at 12 years of age to settle her father’s debt, she knows not what will become of her when he returns from his seafaring. Almost out of the blue, her father marries and her new stepmother and step sisters prove themselves the kindest people Tully has ever known and she soon learns much about herself, her body and what she is able to achieve. She is deemed to have a special gift that allows her to see and make visible ghosts, which a sorcerer aligned to the stepmother’s business is interested in her becoming his apprentice.
It transpires that her stepmother is a madam from the Fairy House Brothel. Unable to recoup her debts from Tully’s father they leave taking Tully with them to be cared for in the brothel. Tully is highly intelligent, she has much to learn after her sheltered childhood, but she has the wherewithal and grows into an assertive character, with much charm and humour. The book contains a story of first love, sexual awakening, prejudice, jealousy, dominating men, violence and strife. It is in part a grim tale of a dark, menacing London, brought to vivid life through bright coloured parties and outfits that the women wear, to the laugh out humour and curious supernatural backdrop.
A strong story runs through this book, which is addictive and engrossing. Despite the touch of the fantastical, it feels believable and you are drawn deep into the story and the experiences of the bold and memorable characters. As fair warning the sexual scenes are rather racy; depicting lesbian, homosexual and heterosexual encounters, but they are fitting of the story and are embedded amongst beautiful and captivating prose of the period in time. I really enjoyed this book, it was refreshing and entrancing and left me wanting to read more.
An Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney, published by HQ on 2 November, 2016 in hardback at £12.99
Reviewed for Real Readers