BOOK REVIEW: The Harlot’s Press  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Title: The Harlot’s Press

Author: Helen Pike

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $29.99

ISBN: 9781907595134

Release Date: Feb 2011

Pages: 384


A romping historical drama, in which St James's and Cheapside, royalty and the rabble become thrillingly entangled as this plucky young printeress battles to stay alive.

And what was I, a mere printer, doing sweeping up my silk skirts on Jermyn-street, you might ask? Well, if you know anything about our city, I'm sure you can guess. The strange thing is, although I invented some lies to explain to my stepfather where I had been while he was imprisoned, and would rather impale myself on the iron railings which surround St Paul's churchyard than tell him the truth, the desire to recount the events of those six months is gaining on me by the minute. At times like this I almost understand the Catholics, for their sacrament of Confession strikes me as a wonderful cure: if I could just tell my story once, not leaving out the worst parts, in fact dwelling on them in the name of absolution, then perhaps I would stop going over and over them in my mind, inventing more and more ways of dressing up my shame in fancy imagery ...

About Helen Pike

Helen Pike lives in Guildford and Oxfordshire. She is a History graduate of Oxford and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck. This is her debut novel, and was in part inspired by her history teaching.


Set during the reign of George IV in the tumultuous summer of 1820, The Harlot's Press follows Nell Wingfield, a gutsy seventeen-year old print-maker of satirical political pamphlets. Nell's mother is dead, her 'blackamoor' stepfather - a liberated slave from Jamaica who officially runs the print shop, but whose real vocation is that of God-botherer and rebel - has just been released from jail, and her brother Tom is about to be hanged for treason. Nell herself has recently returned after a six-month absence that she would rather not explain. Distraught after her mother's death and more than a little naive, she was duped into working at one of the 'Houses of the Quality', the brothels on St James's, where she found herself turning tricks with men at the heart of the English establishment. When one of them, a key protagonist in the plot to keep Caroline of Brunswick from the throne, is murdered in his bed, it is time for Nell to flee. For she has had more than a commercial relationship with this man, and knows that his political enemies will exploit this in an attempt to pin the murder on her.

The Harlot's Press is a romping historical drama, in which St James's and Cheapside, royalty and the rabble become thrillingly entangled as Nell battles to stay alive. This plucky young printeress will show you a London that your history lessons might well have kept from you.

This entry was posted on Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 9:07 PM . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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