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Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan


Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan
Published in: 2021
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★★]

This ARC was provided by Random House UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

The best kind of What the Fu**kery 

Synopsis from Goodreads: The devil’s daughter rows to Edinburgh in a coffin, to work as maid for the Minister of Culture, a man who lives a dual life. But the real reason she’s there is to bear him and his barren wife a child, the consequences of which curse the tenement building that is their home for a hundred years. As we travel through the nine floors of the building and the next eight decades, the resident’s lives entwine over the ages and in unpredictable ways. Along the way we encounter the city’s most infamous Madam, a seance, a civil rights lawyer, a bone mermaid, a famous Beat poet, a notorious Edinburgh gang, a spy, the literati, artists, thinkers, strippers, the spirit world – until a cosmic agent finally exposes the true horror of the building’s longest kept secret. No. 10 Luckenbooth Close hurtles the reader through personal and global history – eerily reflecting modern life today.

My Thoughts: I finished this book yesterday and thought it was a solid 3 star read however as I thought about it overnight I upped that rating to 4 stars.

I am not usually a fan of short stories and you could argue that this is a short story collection however the connection to the first tenants that runs through all the subsequent stories is enough for me to class this as a multi narrator novel. I loved the Edinburgh setting and specifically the tenement building at 10 Luckenbooth Close as the story progresses for the human characters so too does the story of the building and the surrounding area. I also loved the use of dialect although I have seen other reviews that criticise this as well as the use of swearing (don’t know what books they normally read but the swearing in this one did not jump out at me for f**ks sake) .

On finishing this book and looking up the author I was unsurprised to learn she is a poet as this book is full of poetical sentences and descriptions like my favourites below:

“Edinburg seduces with her ancient buildings. She pours alcohol or food down the throats of anyone passing, dangles her trinkets, leaves pockets bare. She’s a pickpocket. The best kind of thief, one you think of – most fondly.”

“Noises are passed from floor to floor like notes passed in school to inform tenants of each other’s indiscretions, inabilities or occasional talents.”

“She grins so wide and wicked that I may have to marry her before sundown to save our immortal souls.”

“Cosmic rays shower secondary particles soundlessly all over the world.”

In amongst the poetry and shenanigans there are also several observations about the state of the world as it was and as it is:

“The thing is, Bill, and you know this – wealthy men make mistakes. Working – class men commit murder. Then they gen hanged. Not as a deterrent tae murdering women, noh, they have little reason to tae try and deter that – fear ay than and rape helps keep women in oor place”

“It is how it is. Men decide what goes in women’s bodies and what is taken out. How and when and in which way things go in and out of them.”

“they are always going on about migrants, about identity and colour and race – it’s almost as if the universe did no create us all from stardust!”

“Britain claims after all of it that there is freedom of the press! What a fucking joke! Rich people own papers and work fir their other rich pals who run the whole fucking joint”

“Applejack will stay well out of it. She is the plastic-pony version of Switzerland. Very occasionally she will take sides, but only if it furthers her own social status.”

Looking back on this it is a much deeper book than it appeared on first reading, there is a distinct feminist message along with a cast of fully diverse characters including representatives with physical and psychology conditions who tend to be under represented in fiction.

Who would like this? I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys magical realism, gothic fiction, fiction where place is as much a character as the people, diverse characters and who appreciates total what the f**kery.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

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