The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey

The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey : A GUARDIAN BOOK OF THE WEEK: A true story of sex, crime and the meaning of justice

4.13 (69 ratings by Goodreads)
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'A gripping, unputdownable masterpiece' Hallie Rubenhold, author of the Baillie Gifford prize-winning The Five

'Ingenious history writing' Mail on Sunday

'Extraordinary' Guardian

'A masterwork' Australian Book Review

'Imaginative and compelling, impassioned and powerful, and deeply, deeply moving' Matt Houlbrook, author of Prince of Tricksters

Lydia Harvey was meant to disappear. She was young and working class; she'd walked the streets, worked in brothels, and had no money of her own. In 1910, politicians, pimps, policemen and moral reformers saw her as just one of many 'girls who disappeared'. But when she took the stand to give testimony at the trial of her traffickers, she ensured she'd never be forgotten.

Historian Julia Laite traces Lydia's extraordinary life from her home in New Zealand to the streets of Buenos Aires and safe houses of London. She also reveals the lives of international traffickers Antonio Carvelli and his mysterious wife Marie, the policemen who tracked them down, the journalists who stoked the scandal, and Eilidh MacDougall, who made it her life's mission to help women who'd been abused and disbelieved.

Together, they tell an immersive story of crime, travel and sexual exploitation, of lives long overlooked and forgotten by history, and of a world transforming into the 20th century.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 432 pages
  • 144 x 222 x 38mm | 575g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main
  • 1788164423
  • 9781788164429
  • 52,221

Review quote

One of the great storytellers of her generation, Julia Laite provides a lens through which we can view the practices and experiences of sex trafficking in the early twentieth century. Along the way, Laite nudges us to think about the ethics of telling another person's story. Riveting, powerfully argued and emotionally moving. -- Joanna Bourke * Fear: A Cultural History * A careful, empathetic reconstruction of the early-20th-century vice trade, placing the victims at the heart of the narrative and returning their dignity to them. This is a moving and compelling work of great scholarship. -- Sarah Wise, author * The Blackest Streets * A gripping, unputdownable masterpiece of scholarly historical research and true crime writing. Julia Laite explores the sordid world of crime, sex and international policing in 1910 by focusing on the individuals caught up in an elaborate web of exploitation. Readers who loved The Five will find this story and its skilful telling equally as enthralling. -- Hallie Rubenhold, author * The Five * Historical writing does not get any better than this ... Working out from one trial at London's Old Bailey, Laite provides a vivid account of a globalising world at the start of the twentieth century. Imaginative and compelling, impassioned and powerful, and deeply, deeply moving, this book is also a signal example of the contemporary political stakes of writing about the past -- Matt Houlbrook, author * Queer London * Demonstrates how, with determination, sensitivity and a careful dose of imagination, extraordinary recoveries are possible ... Laite has taken her slim archival trace and immeasurably enriched it; she has reclaimed a woman's life and restored a more complex reality to the record. -- Sarah Watling * Guardian * With an inventive mix of sources, Laite brilliantly summons up one girl's life, dreams and suffering. It's ingenious history writing, but as the author says, it's a story being repeated daily for today's victims of traffickers. * Mail on Sunday * History at its most rigorous and imaginative. Laite provides an insightful account of the regulation of sex trafficking in the early twentieth century and an enthralling encounter with some of the people involved in one of its more salacious episodes. ...A history book that often reads more like a novel, and that challenges the cliches of villains, victims, and heroic rescuers that dominate writing on sex trafficking. ... A masterwork * Australian Book Review *
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About Julia Laite

Julia Laite is a senior lecturer in modern history at Birkbeck, University of London. As an expert in the history of prostitution, she has written for the Guardian, Open Democracy and History & Policy , and appeared on BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour and Making History, as well as the television programme Find My Past.
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Rating details

69 ratings
4.13 out of 5 stars
5 41% (28)
4 36% (25)
3 20% (14)
2 1% (1)
1 1% (1)
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