The Butcher's Hook

The Butcher's Hook : a dark and twisted tale of Georgian London

3.44 (2,474 ratings by Goodreads)
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Georgian London, in the summer of 1763.
At nineteen, Anne Jaccob, the elder daughter of well-to-do parents, meets Fub the butcher's apprentice and is awakened to the possibilities of joy and passion.
Anne lives a sheltered life: her home is a miserable place and her parents have already chosen a more suitable husband for her than Fub.
But Anne is an unusual young woman and is determined to pursue her own happiness in her own way...
...even if that means getting a little blood on her hands.


*And Janet Ellis's second, darkly compelling novel, How It Was, is out now*
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Product details

  • Hardback | 368 pages
  • 150 x 220 x 33mm | 507g
  • Two Roads
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1473625114
  • 9781473625112
  • 78,293

Review quote

Janet Ellis's appealing debut novel is like a cross between Fanny Burney's Evelina and US crime drama Dexter... Ellis excels at the poetics of flesh. She writes with a keen eye for the texture of skin and the meat beneath. She vividly describes the slaughter of a calf, the wet thwack of the knife, the cleaving of muscle from bone, the hot rush of blood. Anne, we come to realise, is something of a sociopath. This is where The Butcher's Hook gets really interesting ... There's a wit and a richness to the writing, a nice way with pastiche, and a real feel for the macabre. And, in Anne, she has created an engaging and at times daringly amoral heroine. * Observer (Paperback of the Week) * Ellis has a public personality of great charm, and a good deal of this gets into her writing... she revels in the historical details, has a grasp of pace and knows how to keep her audience hooked * The Times * The Butcher's Hook doesn't read like a first novel - it is a high-finish performance. Its heroine is an 18th-century teenage girl, who starts demurely although her sex drive turns out to be anything but demure. You need to be braced for violence to rival any Jacobean tragedy: The Butcher's Hook will hook you. * Observer (New Faces of Fiction) * This author remains one to watch. She has a sharp eye and a sharper wit. More importantly still, she possesses a subtle and compassionate understanding of the human heart * Guardian * A strange, unsettling story * The Sunday Times * This is a dark, weird, gloriously feminist story of a girl in 1763 pushing against the limits of her role and a dark love story. * Elle UK (Best New Books for 2016) * A story of dispassionate, bloody brilliance rich in believable period detail * Metro * Actress and former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis has created a surprising blend of psychological thriller and revenge tragedy in her debut novel... In Vanity Fair, Thackeray demonstrated how society determines character, and this suggestion underlies Ellis's robust and textured vision of the Georgian mindset. But from it emerges an unsettling portrait of a deeply damaged individual whose capacity for creating mayhem is timeless * Daily Mail * A gripping girl-power story * Sun * Ellis weaves her tale with deft skill, striking imagery and a boldness rare in a first novel * Mail on Sunday * The debut novel from the ex-Blue Peter presenter is a doozy * Glamour * Janet Ellis has written one of the most hotly-tipped debuts of 2016 * Daily Express (Books To Look Out For In 2016) * Former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis has burst on to the literary scene with a bodice-ripping thriller... Ellis evokes the sights, sounds and smells of Georgian London and turns a telling phrase that captures on 18th-century cadence * Daily Express * Anne Jaccob is the audacious heroine of this dark, historical debut from former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis * Sunday Express * Dark, packed with surprises and with a feisty unforgettable heroine, this is a top-class debut -- Fanny Blake * Woman & Home (Best Books To Read in February) * a spirited, dark debut set in Georgian London with a heroine who will stop at nothing to get what she wants * Woman and Home * A cracking read... An atmospheric walk through the streets of 1763 London as Anne seeks to be in charge of her own destiny. She finds herself falling for the butcher's apprentice, but her father has already chosen a husband for her..." -- Cathy Rentzenbrink * Prima magazine * The sonnets of John Donne provide a brooding counterpoint to the gruesome turns of this nervy historical novel. Ellis's calculating 19-year-old narrator, Anne Jaccob, dwells in what may be the bleakest house in 18th-century London... Trained as an actor, Ellis reveals that pedigree in wry winks to Shakespeare (the butcher's name is Titus) and dramatis personae evocative of commedia dell'arte (a foppish suitor, a predatory doctor, a dashing lover). More unsettling than its Grand Guignol shocks, the novel's third act gives us the acrid and increasingly disconnected voice of its protagonist, a sociopath-in-training who projects onto her environment the pain and distortions wrought by her own sense of victimhood: a sky "the color of an old man's snot" and a home so forlorn that "the mice here probably throw themselves on the traps for a quicker end." * New York Times * An absolute page turner * Nadia Sawalha, Sunday Express * This bawdy debut novel bodes well for a successful new career * Choice Magazine * fun, grimy and romantic, as well as being a properly rollicking adventure * The Debrief * A highly accomplished piece of work...there's no doubt that Janet Ellis is an author of genuine talent * Reader's Digest * Within one chapter I was hooked. * Woman's Weekly * Dark and sometimes bloody, it can be an unsettling read. Yet it's also a gripping work of fiction, full of twists and surprises, and Anne, who tells her own story in her own idiosyncratic voice, is a distinctively disturbing character * BBC History Magazine * Coursing with sexual awakening, this is a compelling story of a young woman... Janet Ellis has a magnetic style that draws you into surprising realms of what can be achieved if the will is strong enough * Sainsbury's Magazine * A dark debut * Pyschologies Mag * Punchy and fast-moving. Janet Ellis' period piece brilliantly captures the visceral sights and smells of the time and regardless of (or because of) her twisted morals, Anne's strong voice reels you right in. * Sydney Morning Herald * The Butcher's Hook is bewitching: Anne Jaccob is a dark and dangerous heroine and her story is gripping and full of surprises. This is an exciting and hugely impressive debut from Janet Ellis. * Antonia Hodgson, bestselling author of THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA * Ellis has created something marvellous in the character of Anne Jaccob - her voice is strange, dark and utterly mesmeric. This is historical fiction as I've never encountered it before: full of viscera, snarling humour and obsessive desire. I loved it. * Hannah Kent, bestselling author of BURIAL RITES * The rush of this novel is its macabre sense of justice... A sexually heightened gothic of the type de Sade would approve... The events in The Butcher's Hook predate the French Revolution by 26 years, but there's a similar sense here of ambition unfairly tamped by an unjust social order. That's the thrill of the bloodbath when Anne takes the law into her own hands. * The Globe and Mail * Anne is a heroine unlike any we've met before in historical fiction - prickly, amoral, opportunistic, determined to eke what happiness she can from life, even if it means spilling a bit of blood. * Toronto Star * Beautifully crafted. Janet Ellis is a masterful storyteller * Clare Mackintosh, bestselling author of I LET YOU GO * A triumph; dark, shocking and funny. The voice is perfect and the words glitter like little black jewels. * Erin Kelly, bestselling author of THE POISON TREE * Janet Ellis has given us a tale set in Georgian London which possesses all the well-plotted intrigue and gritty reality of these great predecessors (Dickens' Bleak House and Bronte's Jane Eyre) - yet Ellis' heroine has a steely determination to break out of the constraints of her circumstances and get the man she wants at any cost.
This is a distinctly original novel of a young woman's sexual awakening... She is savvy enough to see the shortcomings of those around her and play them to her own advantage. Anne's narrative is so vivid it invokes the sensory experience of the time period and the unsavoury habits of those around her... Ellis writes so well about that all-consuming infatuation we've all felt in first love. It's not romanticized, but deeply physical and tied to a strident rejection of Anne's circumstances... It's refreshing to read about a character set in this time period that is in many ways sympathetic, yet is also capable of horrifyingly monstrous acts. The drama escalates throughout the novel making it an increasingly gripping read as the story progresses... Janet Ellis has created a fierce, memorable heroine and an inventive atmospheric story. It has all the richness of Dickensian detail and the modern flair of Sarah Waters. I also have to mention that the cover design and colour of this book is exceptionally beautiful. * Lonesome Reader * Terrific... Anne is no 18th-century milquetoast heroine in love. Her savagely witty observations of those around her reveal a sharp and cunning mind... Every word of it is really very good * Bookseller * Yes, it's that Janet Ellis, and this debut is attracting a lot of attention, particularly as it sounds darker than many people would have imagined a former Blue Peter presenter would have written... A coming-of-age novel with a strong female lead... both violent and bawdy. * Novel Heights * In her first novel, Ellis weaves a darkly psychological tale set in the rough-and-tumble, vulgar, colorful London of Moll Flanders and Tom Jones. Evoking pity, abhorrence, admiration, and disgust, this title is strongly recommended for readers with a love of Georgian literature and Georgian London and those intrigued by the complexity of the human psyche * Library Journal * In Anne Jaccob, Ellis has created a fascinating, feisty character whose voice is certainly different from many heroines I have encountered in the past... it is a dark, compelling tale of one unforgettable woman and her quest for love and happiness. It is a story filled with surprises, one that stayed with me long after the final page. It is an impressive debut from Janet Ellis, and I hope to read more of her writing in the future! * The Owl on the Bookshelf * I really enjoyed this debut offering from Janet Ellis... The story is dark and quite surprising, beginning like a Regency Romance, building into a bit of a bodice ripper becoming quirky and twisted then ending with a rather shocking climax! The book completely sucked me in and I was enthralled by the story and kept riffling through the pages at a fair old pace. It's a hectic and hair-raising tale, a coming of age story for adults. Read it, love it, but don't be taken in by dear Anne who is like an aniseed ball, hard and deceptive with any sweetness well tempered by the curious bitterness of flavour and the darkness of licorice. * BeadyJans Books * Janet Ellis's compelling plot rests on Anne's formative sexuality and constantly returns to differing conceptions of love and the lenghts people go to in order to protect their status and reputation. The unwillingness of anyone in the story to view Anne as more emotionally complicated than a child leads her self-discovery to run amok, and Ellis to explore the stifling effects of such repressive views of sexuality. Ellis's use of vivid imagery and focus on grisly detail add a macabre beauty to a stirring story. * Publishers Weekly * a tale of wildness and desire * Sydney Morning Herald * This first novel captures the dark era and holds the reader in suspense until the end * Belfast Telegraph * There is no doubt that in the hands of this talented author, Georgian London comes gloriously alive; the fractured underbelly of the lower classes teem with darkness and as this sinister edge starts to infiltrate, before you know it, you are completely under its spell. * Jaffareadstoo * The characters are excellently rendered, recognisable to the extent that you might start casting actors for the TV adaptation... There's a real feel for setting, too, not in the layering of detail but in the impression of surroundings, in the atmosphere invoked and most notably in the people that inhabit the pages, the every-day hustle and bustle of grubby London life. Where this book really shows strength is in when Janet Ellis chooses to reveal what she does. The pace and the timing are perfect and I'll wager there's more than one moment that'll cause your hand to rise to cover the 'o' of your open mouth... Janet Ellis's The Butcher's Hook is a complete package. The settings, characters, the pace and the action are tightly controlled. There's some really nice dry humour in there too, some genuinely funny moments. And the story is likely to have you, well, hooked. It's amazing to think that this is her debut. I loved it. I can't wait to see what comes next. * Van is Reading * Janet Ellis writes with a precision that is rare to find in a debut author. She slices through the sixteenth century's idiosyncrasies amid a turbulent period in British history, whilst soaking up the richness of the era into a three hundred plus page novel. As a reader, you dive into the past, willingly, without hesitation. Just as in life, her characters are memorable, admirable and flawed. And, just like in life, you never know exactly where the journey may take you. * Sukasa Reads * This is a dark, twisted tale that is bleakly humorous. Well written, it is an accomplished debut, and I look forward to seeing what Ellis does next. * Jo's Book Blog * From the get-go Anne is smart, sarcastic, and an unforgettable character. Her interactions with the world around her intrigue and disgust in equal levels. * Cantionis * A thrilling and ambitious debut novel, The Butcher's Hook is a spellbinding read... A stunning addition to the string of female-led historical fiction that's prevailed in the last couple of years, I can only only sit back and wait on tenterhooks to find out what Janet Ellis will give us next. * Food for Bookworms * An accomplished debut novel with a mighty main character in Anna Jaccob * Reflections of a Reader * The book completely sucked me in and I was enthralled by the story and kept riffling through the pages at a fair old pace. It's a hectic and hair raising tale, a coming of age story for adults. Read it, love it * BeadyJans Books * I was incredibly impressed with Ellis' prose- beautiful in places and shocking in others, she displays a real grasp of language and knows the shocking power of a well-placed, incongruous smile or a wicked thought * Thoughts About Books * Original and striking. This is a beautiful read full of sensuous detail and wayward heroes. I loved it. * Kate Hammer * The Butcher's Hook is an accomplished, polished, excellent read. The novel feels fresh, it is a terrific read and it will shock you. Banish any preconceived ideas about historical novels; get reading the story of Anne, her desires and passion in Georgian London. * * I was incredibly impressed with Ellis' prose- beautiful in places and shocking in others, she displays a real grasp of language and knows the shocking power of a well-placed, incongruous simile or a wicked thought. A couple of times I had to re-read a line just to check I'd seen the right thing...her intricate and complicated characters are spellbinding and she has the readers eating out of her hand-the way that the our opinions and perceptions are played with and bent into and out of shape is brilliant. I loved how the novel was able to surprise me and kept me guessing not only about the plot but about the characters. Though I'd describe the novel as sensational and slightly unlikely, it was an enjoyable, twisted journey nonetheless, a gripping whirlwind of passion, debauchery and moral vacancy which I'd thoroughly recommend. * Mythoughtsaboutbooks * This is a book of two halves. The first is a gritty portrayal of the powerlessness of a young urban British adolescent in an age without antibiotics, contraception, or healthcare. The narrative seems to build an intriguing love story between two characters of disparate social backgrounds. However, in the second part, Ellis takes The Butcher's Hook into different territory. Anne's pressured life breeds startling reactions. One overly-lurid murder follows another. Anger and arson rage out of control. The body count unrealistically soars. Anne is not who we think she is. * *
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About Janet Ellis

Actress, presenter and author Janet Ellis trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Best known for presenting Blue Peter, she stars in numerous radio and TV programmes and in 2018 appeared at the Edinburgh Festival. In 2016 Janet was awarded an MBE for services to charities and theatre.

A graduate of the Curtis Brown creative writing course, her debut novel, The Butcher's Hook, was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize.
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Rating details

2,474 ratings
3.44 out of 5 stars
5 14% (344)
4 37% (908)
3 33% (827)
2 12% (292)
1 4% (103)
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