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Blow Your House Down (Virago Modern Classics Book 41)

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A city and its people are in the grip of a killer who is roaming the northern city, singling out prostitutes. The face of his latest victim stares out from every newspaper and billboard, haunting the women who walk the streets. But life and work go on. Brenda, with three children, can't afford to give up while Audrey, now in her forties, desperately goes on 'working the ca A city and its people are in the grip of a killer who is roaming the northern city, singling out prostitutes. The face of his latest victim stares out from every newspaper and billboard, haunting the women who walk the streets. But life and work go on. Brenda, with three children, can't afford to give up while Audrey, now in her forties, desperately goes on 'working the cars'.And then, when another women is savagely murdered, Jean, her lover, takes desperate measures...


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A city and its people are in the grip of a killer who is roaming the northern city, singling out prostitutes. The face of his latest victim stares out from every newspaper and billboard, haunting the women who walk the streets. But life and work go on. Brenda, with three children, can't afford to give up while Audrey, now in her forties, desperately goes on 'working the ca A city and its people are in the grip of a killer who is roaming the northern city, singling out prostitutes. The face of his latest victim stares out from every newspaper and billboard, haunting the women who walk the streets. But life and work go on. Brenda, with three children, can't afford to give up while Audrey, now in her forties, desperately goes on 'working the cars'.And then, when another women is savagely murdered, Jean, her lover, takes desperate measures...

30 review for Blow Your House Down (Virago Modern Classics Book 41)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This is one of Pat Barker’s earlier novels written early in the 1980s. Barker does not shy away from difficult subjects and tackles two in this novel and takes an essentially Marxist approach to her subjects. It is set in the North-East of England and centres on the lives of a group of prostitutes and their lives. There is another aspect to the backdrop; there is a serial killer at work who is killing prostitutes (this is based on the Yorkshire Ripper murders). In other hands this sounds like th This is one of Pat Barker’s earlier novels written early in the 1980s. Barker does not shy away from difficult subjects and tackles two in this novel and takes an essentially Marxist approach to her subjects. It is set in the North-East of England and centres on the lives of a group of prostitutes and their lives. There is another aspect to the backdrop; there is a serial killer at work who is killing prostitutes (this is based on the Yorkshire Ripper murders). In other hands this sounds like the worst type of crime novel; but this is Pat Barker and this is a powerful piece of writing and she focuses strongly on the strength of a community of women. The first part of the novel focuses on Brenda and later an older prostitute called Kath, who befriended Brenda when she was younger. Kath is murdered at the end of the first part. Part two is about the growth of a climate of fear and considers Jean. Jean’s relationship with her lover Carol, another prostitute is explored. Carol is also murdered by the serial killer operating in the area. Jean develops the idea that she can stop the serial killer by picking him up and killing him herself and this idea develops in part three. The final part explores some loose ends and tells the story of a woman who survives an attack, but is seriously hurt, Maggie, a worker at the local chicken factory. She is not a prostitute, but is treated as one by the police at first. The book ends by describing her period of recuperation. Barker’s approach is not a traditional one. There are lots of layers and meanings. It is important to know that chicken is slang for prostitute as the local chicken factory is the backdrop for the whole novel and most of the women have worked there at one time or another and Maggie, whose story is told at the end of the book is a worker at the factory. Barker takes the time to describe what happens to the chickens in the factory; blood, feathers, evisceration and the general messiness; with the chicken ready for the shops at the end. The fate of the chickens is linked to the fate of the women and there is a cyclical pattern to both; women’s live being bounded by class, gender and place. The decision to be a prostitute here is purely economic; Barker puts these words in Jean’s mouth; “I like this life. I’m not in it because I’m a poor, deprived, inadequate, half-witted woman, whatever some people might like to think, I’m in it because it suits me, I like the company, I like the excitement. I like the feeling of stepping out onto the street, not knowing what’s going to happen or who I’m going to meet. I like the freedom. I like being able to decide when I’m going to work. I like being able to take the day off without being answerable to anybody.” It is not about sex; that is a necessary chore. Prostitution is portrayed as just another job, like working in the factory. They know the nature of the men they deal with and know they will get no support from the police. There is a point in the book when the women realise the police have stopped bothering them and are using them as bait for the killer. Barker is not afraid to look at the darkness, the unlit corners and the horror facing her characters. In doing so she also creates very strong, complex and believable women who resist society’s patriarchal assumptions. This is as much about female identity as anything else, from a particular viewpoint. It works well and makes it arguments very powerfully. The ending is left a little open and there is a couple of plot lines which the reader may be uncertain about, but that adds to the whole. Not for the squeamish, but Barker creates characters that the reader cares about and delineates the ways in which they struggle for identity and agency.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fiona MacDonald

    I was excited to pick up my first Pat Barker story because of all the brilliant things I have heard about her. 'Blow your house down' is written from the perpective of 4 different prostitutes who are all working together in terror of a serial killer that is picking them off one by one. Each one describes their lives and lifestyle differently, and each woman has a completely unique voice. I loved the first half of the book (although there is a rather graphic sex scene out of nowhere that gave me a I was excited to pick up my first Pat Barker story because of all the brilliant things I have heard about her. 'Blow your house down' is written from the perpective of 4 different prostitutes who are all working together in terror of a serial killer that is picking them off one by one. Each one describes their lives and lifestyle differently, and each woman has a completely unique voice. I loved the first half of the book (although there is a rather graphic sex scene out of nowhere that gave me a shock!)but found that the second half was drawn out unecessarily for no reason. I am looking forward to reading 'Union Street' however if I can find it in my shelves...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bill Khaemba

    Devastatingly Tragic and just beautiful ""you don't give it up love," said Annie. "It gives you up." … I am at loss for words at what I just experienced. I feel like In have journeyed through the story for a month but I just whizzed through this in one sitting. I am officially a fan of Pat Barker’s work and I need more… She managed to pull me into the world of Prostitution as she explores similar themes that affect women just like her other book Union street (Review Here) (which I Devastatingly Tragic and just beautiful ""you don't give it up love," said Annie. "It gives you up." … I am at loss for words at what I just experienced. I feel like In have journeyed through the story for a month but I just whizzed through this in one sitting. I am officially a fan of Pat Barker’s work and I need more… She managed to pull me into the world of Prostitution as she explores similar themes that affect women just like her other book Union street (Review Here) (which I highly recommend)   The story simply follows these group of prostitutes who have different backgrounds and daily struggles as they try to survive a Jack The Ripper copycat serial killer who is hunting them down. From single mothers who are looking for money to support their families to emotionally damaged individuals who are just trying to get through life, Pat Barker shines the spotlight on really dark issues.   First of all, if you are going in expecting a full blown mystery driven narrative you will a little letdown but they do feature some aspects of it. The story explores these women's lives and how society has sort of painted them as “whores” and the author managed to tell their side of the story. The dangers that come with the profession and how horrific, tragic and scary it gets out there in the street. It will alter your perspective on the subject as these women not only strive for a better life but support one another and strong life bonds are formed through this work experience. The author really knows how to tap into the mind of the woman and explores themes of broken families, mental illness, unemployment and so much in such a short story the only flaw I could find is that this is the last book of hers I own and I need more. I would highly recommend Union House & This one.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cerys Jones

    Great portrait of the sadness and bleakness of prostitution along with an initially gripping storyline. Felt the book lost itself in the final section but nevertheless a good read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chris Stanley

    I don't think the British public gives Pat Barker her due respect. There are not many writers who can take a book based on a notorious serial murderer and not make it a heart-pounding but ultimately empty read. But in this, written a few years after the Yorkshire Ripper was finally caught, Barker finds a stoic yet fragile sense of kinship among his chief targets, namely prostitutes. It's not a subject you would want to read about on a beach holiday, but Barker largely ignores the spectre of murde I don't think the British public gives Pat Barker her due respect. There are not many writers who can take a book based on a notorious serial murderer and not make it a heart-pounding but ultimately empty read. But in this, written a few years after the Yorkshire Ripper was finally caught, Barker finds a stoic yet fragile sense of kinship among his chief targets, namely prostitutes. It's not a subject you would want to read about on a beach holiday, but Barker largely ignores the spectre of murder to concentrate on the reality facing the women he preyed on - desperate, realistic and at times, hopeful. It's not all unrelenting misery and shadows in the dark, but a grimy business that more often than not keeps the wolf from the door. The title itself suggests how a single predator can cause chaos. It's a short but compelling read, full of earthy language and some outstanding imagery. It's more of a poem than a novel, though you may be haunted by it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    I read this in practically one sitting. It might be a slim novel, but it packs a powerful punch. Set in the early 1980s, it is obviously loosely based on the Yorkshire Ripper murders. Prostitutes in a city in the north of England are being targeted by a serial killer. Rather than focus on the perpetrator and the investigative process aimed to catch him, Pat Barker tells the stories of the prostitutes who sell their bodies in the street near the viaduct and perhaps more importantly, the stories o I read this in practically one sitting. It might be a slim novel, but it packs a powerful punch. Set in the early 1980s, it is obviously loosely based on the Yorkshire Ripper murders. Prostitutes in a city in the north of England are being targeted by a serial killer. Rather than focus on the perpetrator and the investigative process aimed to catch him, Pat Barker tells the stories of the prostitutes who sell their bodies in the street near the viaduct and perhaps more importantly, the stories of how they ended up with very little choice with young children to care for and feed. The description of Kath's murder is the most graphic scene I've ever read in a crime novel, not that Blow Your House Down can be described as such. The women's stories are tragic and seem so real. The police are shadowy figures, showing little interest in the case, observing the women and noting the registration numbers of the cars that pick them up, hoping to catch the killer in the act. The women are lambs to the slaughter with the police standing by to watch. This novel says so much about the police and the public's attitude to sex workers in this period.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Samir Rawas Sarayji

    A solid novel with exceptionally good, clear prose. And Barker's dialogue is always a blessing. My average rating stems from two points, both very subjective. The first, why oh why the fourth perspective? That really messed up the finale of the novel for me. It could have just ended at the third perspective and I would have been fine with an open-ending. The fourth just didn't blend in with the rest fo the novel. I was dragged out of the struggles and emotional intimacy of the first three (all p A solid novel with exceptionally good, clear prose. And Barker's dialogue is always a blessing. My average rating stems from two points, both very subjective. The first, why oh why the fourth perspective? That really messed up the finale of the novel for me. It could have just ended at the third perspective and I would have been fine with an open-ending. The fourth just didn't blend in with the rest fo the novel. I was dragged out of the struggles and emotional intimacy of the first three (all prostitutes) to an objective perspective of a character I don't even remember (and frankly, quite dislike). The second point is that the technique employed of different perspectives kept the plot looping between these three women and somehow, the inevitability of what would happen became predictable. Still though, a satisfying read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kaylol

    Can't say I liked it but that does not mean it's not good. Can't say I liked it but that does not mean it's not good.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Danby

    The words that immediately come to mind after finishing ‘Blow Your House Down’ by Pat Barker are negative: unflinching, bleak, dark and depressing. This is a dark story of the women preyed upon by a killer, women living on the edge, surviving by selling their bodies to men at a time when prostitutes are being murdered. But other words also came to mind as I dwelled on the book afterwards: friendship, community, solidarity, defiance, vulnerability, strength. Slim, I read it in one sitting on a ra The words that immediately come to mind after finishing ‘Blow Your House Down’ by Pat Barker are negative: unflinching, bleak, dark and depressing. This is a dark story of the women preyed upon by a killer, women living on the edge, surviving by selling their bodies to men at a time when prostitutes are being murdered. But other words also came to mind as I dwelled on the book afterwards: friendship, community, solidarity, defiance, vulnerability, strength. Slim, I read it in one sitting on a rainy afternoon, this is a powerful, compelling read. It pulls you into the women’s stories, makes you feel at one with them. ‘Blow Your House Down’ is set in a Northern Town in the 1980s. The timing and setting draw inevitable links with the Yorkshire Ripper who preyed on prostitutes and lone women in the north and was arrested and convicted in 1981. Frightened but driven by the need for rent money or to feed their children, the women continue to walk the streets as the face of one of their own, Kath, the killer’s latest victim, looks down at them from a giant poster. The detail of their ordinary lives is described, starting with Brenda who settles her daughters in bed in preparation to going out with her friend Audrey. Their first call is the Palmerston, the pub where the women gather for a drink before going out onto the streets as a pair. There is a camaraderie, a spirit of just-get-on-with-it. We see some of Brenda’s back story, how she tried working at the nearby chicken factory where the women sing to cope with their grizzly job, how she has been let down by men and is trying to manage on her own. Barker shows no sentimentality for the women, she describes their lives simply and allows the characters to elicit the reader’s sympathy. Like the chickens lined up on the production line, the women walk up and down the streets, trying to support each other by taking note of number plates. The police sit by, watching, using the women as bait to catch the killer. The men have no voice, they are portrayed as liars, weak and pathetic, except for one whose breath smells of the violet sweets he eats. “You do a lot of walking in this job. More than you might think. In fact, when I get to the end of a busy Saturday night, it’s me feet that ache. There, that surprised you, didn’t it?” Part 3 starts with Jean, whose lover Carol, thought to have gone to London, has been identified as the latest victim. Jean sets out to entrap the killer. “I want to catch the bastard more than most.” The language is unstinting and graphic, particularly of the sex scenes. The women’s dialogue is in the vernacular which makes them feel real. The tension rises as you wonder which woman will be killed next; each time a women gets into a car with a stranger you think ‘is it him?’ and this drives you to read on. An accomplished novel published in 1984, it is difficult to appreciate this was only Barker’s second novel. Read it, you will not forget it. Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-revie...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kate Stewart

    This book is a little gem! Short, but beautifully crafted. Pat Barker is such a talented writer. Of her books, I’ve read and enjoyed the Silence of the Girls, set in Ancient Near East, and the Regeneration trilogy, about some of the WW1 English soldier-poets, but I hadn’t heard of this one. It was written in the 1980s, one of her first novels, and is set in the place where she is from; the north of England. It’s not a murder mystery, although it is a story about serial murders, but it’s told ent This book is a little gem! Short, but beautifully crafted. Pat Barker is such a talented writer. Of her books, I’ve read and enjoyed the Silence of the Girls, set in Ancient Near East, and the Regeneration trilogy, about some of the WW1 English soldier-poets, but I hadn’t heard of this one. It was written in the 1980s, one of her first novels, and is set in the place where she is from; the north of England. It’s not a murder mystery, although it is a story about serial murders, but it’s told entirely from the point of view of the sex workers who are being terrorised rather than the police dicks trying to catch the killer. It’s not until you read from the women victims’ POV that you realise how much popular culture we consume is entirely from the other side. And the women are wonderful, but damn they have horrible lives. They live cheek by jowl in an impoverished part of an unnamed city (Manchester? Newcastle?), treated like shit by their men, sometimes pimped and sometimes not. They have basically two options… work at the local chicken factory (there is a recurring motif of hens to the slaughter) and try to find someone cheap yet reliable and not perverted to look after the ‘bairns’, or dangerous sex work on the streets, where brothels are illegal and the cops arrest the women rather than the clients. Despite the increasing number of horribly mutilated corpses of their friends showing up, stopping isn’t an option. And the police aren’t protecting them but using them as bait to catch him. This book feels extremely authentic in a way that her other books, while terrific, could not. Very highly recommended!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Megan-Eve Holyfield

    I really enjoyed this. The perspectives of all the women and their different issues and focuses really interested me. I love getting to know different motivations and I think it really strengthens the characterisation and individual stories. It is definitely visceral at points which I loved from an academic POV, but I think it could be a lot for some people. It had some really interesting allusions and metaphors that I felt sandwiched the narrative. I only wish it were longer and that some other I really enjoyed this. The perspectives of all the women and their different issues and focuses really interested me. I love getting to know different motivations and I think it really strengthens the characterisation and individual stories. It is definitely visceral at points which I loved from an academic POV, but I think it could be a lot for some people. It had some really interesting allusions and metaphors that I felt sandwiched the narrative. I only wish it were longer and that some other parts were as visceral as the mattress scene, as I felt that scene came to life and others would have fared better with the same elaborate treatment Pat gave it. 4/5 could’ve been a little more descriptive and present but the individual voices were spot on.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Fahimeh

    The story of a traumatized community in which women from different backgrounds deal with the horrors of a serial killer haunting the community and how these murders influence their lives by experiencing the trauma directly or indirectly. I like how she makes it the story of the whole community and not one individual character despite the darkness hovering all over the narrative. All share the trauma one way or another.

  13. 5 out of 5

    J

    a compelling read offering empowerment of sex workers, class conflict and moral ambiguity (as in Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil) set in a familiar time and place, told by voices seldom heard a compelling read offering empowerment of sex workers, class conflict and moral ambiguity (as in Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil) set in a familiar time and place, told by voices seldom heard

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chloe Price

    I have to say, I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. It took me a while to get into but after a few chapters I was intrigued. One of the better books I’ve had to read for uni.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Antenna

    Set in a rundown northern town, this short but dense, bleak yet gripping novel exposes the lives of a disparate group of working class prostitutes trying to contain their rising fear over the mounting evidence of a serial killer, unprotected by the police who seem to using them as bait to trap him. Understandably haunted by the murder of her female lover, one of the women decides to take control and avenge her death, but can she be sure she has found the right man? Each of Pat Barker’s novels se Set in a rundown northern town, this short but dense, bleak yet gripping novel exposes the lives of a disparate group of working class prostitutes trying to contain their rising fear over the mounting evidence of a serial killer, unprotected by the police who seem to using them as bait to trap him. Understandably haunted by the murder of her female lover, one of the women decides to take control and avenge her death, but can she be sure she has found the right man? Each of Pat Barker’s novels seems to be triggered by specific real events, in this case the activities of the “Yorkshire Ripper”. Her second novel, published in 1984 long before she hit the Booker jackpot, this is very different from her recent work, revealing the style of her early writing from which a more fragmented, stream of consciousness, perhaps more self-conscious and studied, sophisticated style has developed. Parts 1 and 2 in particular seem more straightforward than later work, with strong dialogue and clear narrative drive making the novel a page-turner. Without undue sentimentality, Pat Barker arouses our sympathy for the women who have often had a raw deal and support each other with earthy and stoical humour. You may of course feel that, along with the stereotyping, she tends to let them off too lightly as unfortunate victims in comparison with the men, all of whom appear to some degree weak, pathetic or abusive. Along with some disturbing graphic descriptions of violence, there is the unsettling image of the headless chickens on a conveyor belt, their feathers stained with blood as an analogy for the victimised prostitutes. Although Pat Barker’s talent as a wordsmith is evident, her plot potentially powerful, I found the arguably original and daring change in point of view in Part 4 too abrupt and confusing, destroying the flow and tension built up previously. Feeling that I had been catapulted into another novel, I had to search back to see if any of what seemed like a new set of characters had appeared before. I think the author is trying to show that how “respectable” women who suffer attack are treated better than prostitutes but think that this thread needed to be woven in more skilfully from the outset rather than bolted on as an awkward coda. This novel confirms my impression that Pat Barker is a distinctive and thoughtful writer, who does not flinch from the challenge of describing horrific events which neither she nor most of her readers have experienced, who switches perhaps too swiftly from well-observed social chat to the macabre, and whose talents lie in striking description and dialogue rather than constructing a plot.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gareth Evans

    It's grim up north -as it is in Pat Barker's other early novels. As usual it's graphic stuff - not for the prudish or faint-hearted. Like the her other early novels, this is somewhat episodic, and in my view somewhat less effective. A promising start gets somewhat diluted by a change in narrator later on. Nevertheless a interesting and uncompromising piece. It's grim up north -as it is in Pat Barker's other early novels. As usual it's graphic stuff - not for the prudish or faint-hearted. Like the her other early novels, this is somewhat episodic, and in my view somewhat less effective. A promising start gets somewhat diluted by a change in narrator later on. Nevertheless a interesting and uncompromising piece.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Soula L.

    Set in Northern England in the mid 1970s, this book is about the lives of sex workers (prostitutes) when there is a “serial killer” routinely murdering women. I read this book because it is the second one by Pat Barker and I’m trying to read them sequentially. As I thought, this book was less interesting to me than "Union Street" (Pat Barker's first book). There was a lot of dialogue but no social context or character development. However, it did prompt me to start looking up information about t Set in Northern England in the mid 1970s, this book is about the lives of sex workers (prostitutes) when there is a “serial killer” routinely murdering women. I read this book because it is the second one by Pat Barker and I’m trying to read them sequentially. As I thought, this book was less interesting to me than "Union Street" (Pat Barker's first book). There was a lot of dialogue but no social context or character development. However, it did prompt me to start looking up information about the lives of the victims (of a serial killer in the Yorkshire area during that time). The first real life victim seemed to have had a lot of resources made available to her (a council house) for instance, but was leaving her young children alone in the house at night (while she went out to the pub). Unattended children is not allowed, of course. Doesn't look like she'd set up an back up plan (emergency plan) for her 4 children (the eldest 9) either; 2 of whom were found the next morning, understandably frightened, by the bus stop their mother had used (when she hadn't returned, due to her death). Seems like there was a lack of the neighborly camaraderie depicted in Pat Barker's book (she hadn't even asked a neighbor to look in on them). The father, apparently, had anger management issues and questionable (criminal) disciplinary techniques. Nevertheless, the woman's death left a blank. The second victim was called a “part-time” sex worker as she had a husband. Only got that far looking at real victims lives (there were 13 victims and a number of survivors) but clearly a vulnerable population embracing horrible life-styles. Great sympathy, though, for women who find themselves on the margins of society, often through their own experiences of child neglect and lack of education. Also recognize the double standards (hypocrisy) and devaluation of women (misogyny) and women's work (often the all-too-important child care). Amazed that people can find any satisfaction from the business (men) and that their financial resources aren't put into helping these people (nonprofits). Surprised these issues are as current as ever in developed countries given the social services available to people. We've just seen some of these types of issues involving the Royal Family (Prince Andrew). If anything, Pat Barker wasn’t as realistic as she could have been about the stark reality of the lives of this population. Fragile egos (male) really do make their lives a nightmare in addition to all the other social issues (poverty, broken families, and child neglect and abuse). The lives of an earlier serial killer in the East End of London (1888) are covered by a new book by Hallie Rubenhold: The Five - which might be of interest with its similar set of social issues and religious implications. The Century’s Daughter next about Margaret Thatcher. Note: I did read about all the victims in the Yorkshire area - 23 - as a memorial. I understand there was a lot of police incompetence. 9/17/2020

  18. 4 out of 5

    Katie Greenwood

    I will maintain to my deathbed that this is most definitely a book loosely based around the Yorkshire Ripper's murders. No matter what the author suggests. I mean a novel about prostitutes being killed by one man around the Leeds area...There's not really much room to dispute it. Down to the mention of a woman that survived the attack but was left with a 'crater' in the back of her head. Pat Barker focused on the victims in this novel rather than the killer. She created a novel that followed the I will maintain to my deathbed that this is most definitely a book loosely based around the Yorkshire Ripper's murders. No matter what the author suggests. I mean a novel about prostitutes being killed by one man around the Leeds area...There's not really much room to dispute it. Down to the mention of a woman that survived the attack but was left with a 'crater' in the back of her head. Pat Barker focused on the victims in this novel rather than the killer. She created a novel that followed the lives of prostitutes in a way that emphasised their humanity. There was, and to an extent, still is a stigma surrounding it but the way Barker wrote the novel showed them as what they are. People, people with lives, problems and ultimately victims. The way of a persons life doesn't necessarily make them immune to being a victim. Nor should it be a deciding factor on whether they become a victim. Though I was disappointed with the ending of this book I did enjoy it. I wish the character of Jean had been explored later in the novel more and that perhaps we had seen her repeat certain behaviours. It seemed a very quick departure from her character to that of Maggie. Whose arc, though important, seemed an odd place to end the book. A quick, gritty and in some places very difficult read, but with a very unique perspective. www.a-novel-idea.co.uk

  19. 4 out of 5

    Infamous Sphere

    I've read Barker's fantastic Regeneration Trilogy and her Life Class trilogy, but before she turned to historical war-era fiction she wrote "social problem" books about working class Northern women. I found this one on the bookshelf at home and decided to give it a go. This is very much like a Ken Loach movie. I thought it was well-written and respectful, and gave the characters agency and strong narrative voices, but it doesn't mean it was enjoyable, and I wouldn't recommend it. I don't think i I've read Barker's fantastic Regeneration Trilogy and her Life Class trilogy, but before she turned to historical war-era fiction she wrote "social problem" books about working class Northern women. I found this one on the bookshelf at home and decided to give it a go. This is very much like a Ken Loach movie. I thought it was well-written and respectful, and gave the characters agency and strong narrative voices, but it doesn't mean it was enjoyable, and I wouldn't recommend it. I don't think it was offensive but the descriptions of violence against sex workers was distressing, and not something I'd suggest others read. The book also comes to a halt rather oddly, with none of it resolved. I suppose it reflects the lack of resolution many people have in their own life, but I can understand why Barker is best known for her historical fiction rather than these earlier works.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ian McMinn

    Set in a very working class city in Northern England the story follows 4 very “working” class women just trying to earn a living with their bodies while a serial killer stalks their dreary, rundown neighborhood. They try to look after each other as best they can, working in pairs etc. They all enjoy a laugh and a few drinks as a respite from their alternate lives where they are often looked upon as less than. This book is loosely based on the series of killings that took place in Britain by Pete Set in a very working class city in Northern England the story follows 4 very “working” class women just trying to earn a living with their bodies while a serial killer stalks their dreary, rundown neighborhood. They try to look after each other as best they can, working in pairs etc. They all enjoy a laugh and a few drinks as a respite from their alternate lives where they are often looked upon as less than. This book is loosely based on the series of killings that took place in Britain by Peter Sutcliffe also known as the Yorkshire Ripper. It is a dark gritty novel but such is life.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Jones

    I'm hard pressed to write a review that would do justice to this novel. Barker takes the over-used story of a serial killer stalking prostitutes and strips it of all the titillating true-crime voyeurism, leaving a more true-to-life story of real people and the nature of violence. She gets deep into the hearts and minds of her characters in a way that moved me deeply and made me think hard about the ways fear and anger perpetuate the cycle. I'm hard pressed to write a review that would do justice to this novel. Barker takes the over-used story of a serial killer stalking prostitutes and strips it of all the titillating true-crime voyeurism, leaving a more true-to-life story of real people and the nature of violence. She gets deep into the hearts and minds of her characters in a way that moved me deeply and made me think hard about the ways fear and anger perpetuate the cycle.

  22. 5 out of 5

    MELISSA CORTEZ

    This novel was such a raw, pain filled read that will have you clawing to the edge of your seat. Pat Barker never ceases to amaze me with how elegantly she writes about horrible instances that so commonly happen and will more than likely continue to happen all across the world. I will continue to seek out Pat Barker, highly recommend!

  23. 4 out of 5

    John

    At a time when Netflix once again champions a sordid glorification of misogyny through a multitude of series and films perpetuating the mystification of serial murderers, Barker’s story of the lives and experiences of a small group of women working the streets of northern England is an essential piece reminding us of where our concerns and sympathy should truly be focused.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carol Carr

    So good I absolutely love Pat Barkers style of writing. I read this in two days. Left me feeling breathless. The depth of feeling in the story puts you in there with the characterrs. One of those books that you cant put down but feel bereft when it ends

  25. 4 out of 5

    Miss L Heaher

    Thought provoking read This is the first Pat Barker book I've read. I enjoyed it, although it seemed to lose it's way half way though. Loved the Brenda character. Thought provoking end. I will try other Pat Barker novels. Thought provoking read This is the first Pat Barker book I've read. I enjoyed it, although it seemed to lose it's way half way though. Loved the Brenda character. Thought provoking end. I will try other Pat Barker novels.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    Pat Barker may be my favorite living author. She does amazing things here, especially humanizing sex workers and telling their story in their terms. I found her use of the chickens and chicken factory to be incredibly clever and well done. This one will sit with me for a while.

  27. 4 out of 5

    John Newcomb

    A killer of prostitutes is on the lose. We get a variety of viewpoints from the girls. It’s all a bit scary and rather depressing. But also riveting. You want to know who will be next and will he be caught. A page turner!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Howard Jackson

    Gave up. Too grim for me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Esther Lee

    Another masterpiece Pat Barker is beyond compare in her ability to introduce you to women you care about and understand and long to know more about.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Frank Farrell

    Excellent. Fantastic narrative plus some rich writing. I read it over two days. Would have been one if I’d had the time. Highly recommended.

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