dreamsanddedications

Review: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Nineteen MinutesNineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn’t my favorite Picoult novel but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Picoult has a great ability to embroider her narrative with only essential comparisons and details. She uses examples and phrases that pull at your emotions in a deeply evocative way.
The story is about a young teenage boy called Peter who sacrifices his own future by seeking revenge on his high school bullies; ultimately shooting them (and others) dead in a final tragic act of redemption.
But the most interesting aspect of this story, for me, was in the exploration of the quietly ‘displaced’ victims. Those who cared for him and became permanently scarred and affected by his actions. His childhood friend Josie, the girl he grew up with (and fell for) but she later ignored Peter to stay in favor with the more ‘acceptable’ high school crowd. Also Lacy, Peter’s mother; a woman who had already lost one child in a tragic incident and is now losing her second. And then there is Peter himself, a sensitive, bright and caring young teenager who was viewed in high school as a social ‘misfit,’ to become a detached cold-blooded murderer. It is the reaction of the whole town towards the young murderer, and Picoult’s effective way of showing us the viewpoint from every characters angle that really scrapes at your emotions.
The meaningful essence of this book stays with you long after reading. It reminds you that people are never just black and white and that sadly, even the perpetrators of some very hideous crimes are also ‘victims’ too.

View all my reviews

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The Victorians and Sex

VICTORIAN people appeared to have a strange attitude towards sex. Despite being highly fascinated by the subject, they were reported to be frigid and factually ignorant on the matter too. Throughout history, and not just in the Victorian era, sex has always been used as a powerful tool to oppress and control society.

“Lie back and think of England,” is famously reported to have been a phrase counselled to young newly married women right after Queen Victoria said it to her daughter when she expressed fears before her wedding night.

via GIPHY

But were the Victorians really just a bunch of prudes?

In some reports the mention or suggestion of ‘female pleasure’ was distasteful and frowned upon. If Victorian women were indeed horrified by the idea of sex, well, what a massive contrast to the twenty-first century response by female fans of the book, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’

Does it mean that we are simply freer these days with our sexual attitudes? Or has public immorality completely over stepped the line?

We know that many Victorian couples did indulge in consensual pleasurable sex behind closed doors; it was merely the collective and repressive public attitude which affected all classes.

To gain a more balanced perspective I examined the general and societal attitude towards sex in the eighteenth century.

One of the reasons sex was such an illicit subject of discussion was because it was so terribly misunderstood. Very little was taught in schools so most children coming into puberty still had no idea of the true functions or differences between male/female genitalia. Many young adults were not aware that sex caused pregnancy, and for those who did, it was an affliction one could very easily die from. They knew that it could spread diseases, such as syphillus and venereal disease and it was also attributed to a range of mental disorders and had religiously sinful connotations. Lastly, sex was linked to Prostitution.

Because of the very fact that they were ignorant, afraid and repressed on the matter it encouraged a puritanical control of the population. Ministers and religious patrons used sex, disease and religion as a powerful tool for will-bending and manipulation.

Victorians also had a slightly warped and irregular view regarding sexual activity itself.

Here are the main contradicting points which I discovered.

  1. Sex was not a subject to be discussed publically, or privately, with anyone other than your doctor.
  2. Celibacy was discouraged. From a biological standpoint you needed to be having sex (invisibly) as much as possible. This would be to ensure a thriving heir, as infant mortality rates were high. (Note: Poor families were encouraged much less!)
  3. Once married (and only then) it was your duty as a wife to permit your husband to, ‘lie with you’ as often as he desired, mainly in order to achieve point 2.
  4. If you were not a ‘conforming’ wife your husband might be driven to extreme masturbation, which was considered by many to be a mutilating and a mortal sin.
  5. Even though ‘harlotry’ (prostitution) was frowned upon, it was quietly encouraged by many groups to assist long-suffering husbands, and by the same token it enabled women to improve their circumstances, a fate worse than death ,and the possibility of affording an education for themselves or their children.

So there were many reasons why sex was ‘necessary,’ but also many reasons why it was a ‘dirty,’ subject altogether.

Masturbation

The subject of masturbation was the epitome of embarrassment, and is still considered slightly taboo to this day. Even the very word makes many people cringe.

via GIPHY

In the 18th century doctors even went so far as to describe mild ‘sicknesses’ as a direct cause of ‘over-masturbation,’ including a cause of madness. If counselling did not work regular punishment might include a caning or thrashing (common within boys’ schools,) chastity devices, implement corrections, potions and even religious rituals were performed to cast out the offensive semen demon!

Prostitution

‘Fallen women’ were often regarded with disgust and by some, they were looked upon as ‘dangerous’ to society as no one knew for certain how many existed in Victorian times, and upright woman feared that they would lure their husbands away from their marriages and moral virtues.

But evidently, the need for this type of service was also apparent. There were a large number of ‘bachelors,’ in the cities as many men were not permitted to have sex outside of marriage, and they were often told not to start a family until they had acquired an education and could afford one.

But even though Prostitutes were rarely discussed with any sympathy, it was widely understood that they were often driven to prostitution by necessity. Your average prostitute in those days would have been aged eleven years and older, and most came from the slums or had a very poor upbringing and no education at all. If they had an illegitimate child/children they would not be hired anywhere else.

It is no wonder then that these poor women felt that they would fare better in a brothel than destitute on the streets. As a prostitute they would earn some kind of a wage and have the prospect of a meal each day for themselves and their children. These women too had aspirations, one might be lucky enough to become a regular serving ‘mistress,’ to a wealthy customer.

So although prostitution presented similar dangers to women as they do today, i.e. disease, drugs and even murder, many women escaped death because of it.

Upon  weighing up all these facts we might be forgiven for thinking that overall, the Victorians were a bunch of prudes, but wait… just a little more research and we find out this:

http://www.hackwriters.com/victorianp.htm – In this article David Rutherford highlights the scandalous and sexually explicit London advertisements of the 17/18th century’s Prostitutes and how certain publications and listings would provide you with explicit details and the various services provided by each woman.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harris’s_List_of_Covent_Garden_Ladies –  “Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies,” is a shocking circular and was published as early as 1757 for two shillings and managed to shift 8,000 copies a year.

What is it?

It’s an annual directory of Prostitutes working within London, and as quoted by Wikipedia.. “Each edition contains entries which describe the physical appearance and sexual specialities of about 120–190 prostitutes who worked in and around Covent Garden. Through their erotic prose, the lists’ entries review some of these women in lurid detail. At a basic level, the entries detail each woman’s age, her physical appearance (including the size of her breasts), her sexual specialities, and sometimes a description of her genitals.”

Shocking indeed, given the fact that we do not have a Prostitute yellow pages in our own century, and this particular circulation pre-dates the Victorian era. I would imagine it to have been the Georgian period’s version of our modern day Playboy Magazine, but worse still.

As the link below would have you believe, the Victorians actually indulged excessively into sexual exploits and antics in private, where they might have lacked the deference to expose their interests and desires publically. The ‘5 Ridiculous Sex Myths‘ reveals how rape, paedophilia, BDSM and orgies were all happening just as much then as they do now.

The conclusion here is that we have not changed or evolved sexually at all over time,  but our attitudes towards sex have! It is obvious that sex is still the fundamentally most popular activity known to man (and women,) and that will likely be the case for another few hundred years to come.

—–

The Whitechapel Virgin

THE WHITECHAPEL VIRGIN,’is an exciting and compelling thriller filled with suspense, drama, real places and names of victims, plus all the ‛true to life,’  east end characters. Within the story the prostitutes finally speak out, their thin and pitiful voices echo in the bitterly cold darkness, filled with sheer anguish and terror. They are no longer silent, we can now hear their pain and become witness to their enduring strife and burdens.”

THE_WHITECHAPEL_VIRGIN

JACK THE RIPPER

“Travel through Whitechapel in 18th Century London, along it’s cobbled alleyways which are filled with debauchery and crime. This is the haunt of Jack the Ripper. A man who trawled the streets by twilight, deftly butchering five helpless victims during his autumn reign of terror, and then cleverly escaping from his crimes. In this remarkable new and clever plot twist embedded with all the original known facts, you will discover who he was.
At last, the Ripper’s identity will be disclosed.”

Kindle Download on Amazon.co.uk

Kindle Download on Amazon.com

 

—–

Further Reading:

5 Ridiculous sex myths from history. http://www.cracked.com/article_19575_5-ridiculous-sex-myths-from-history-you-probably-believe.html

 

dreamsanddedications

The Whitechapel Virgin – In the Spotlight with Ripper Experts

Whilst most people have heard of Jack the Ripper, how many truly know his victims? And to what degree are they remembered as humans, mothers, or were they nothing more than just displaced members of London’s 18th century largely critical and class-obsessed society?

In The Whitechapel Virgin, the prostitutes are given a voice, and as can be expected it’s a terribly sad one. But the author’s harrowing portrayal of their downtrodden day-to-day lives is much more evocative and realistic than any other media representation that has ever been cast on Whitechapel’s prostitutes to date.

The ‘fictional’ Jack the Ripper works his way through the entire story, terrifying the ‘ladies of the night,’ and even though he is not cast as the cunning, sly, blood-thirsty gentleman that the media love to portray, he is by many reader’s accounts as good and likely a culprit as any.

mikecovell“Carla Acheson’s story takes you down the dark streets of Whitechapel, to a time when all was not as it seems, and an immense shadow was looming over the metropolis. The book is a real page turner, and one that grips the reader until the very end. An excellent addition to any shelf.” – Mike Covell – Actor, TV Producer

The following review of The WhiteChapel Virgin is  given by award–winning author Brian Porter who has won many book awards such as Preditors & Editors Best Thriller Novel Award, 2008 for A Study in Red – The Secret Journal of Jack the Ripper.

“The Whitechapel Virgin is a thoroughly entertaining fictional rendition of life among Whitechapel’s prostitutes at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders. Great empathy in depicting the women as real human beings with their own hopes, fears and aspirations.” Brian Porter – A Study in Red

While Ripperologists deal with fact, Acheson’s novel delves deep into the emotional and debilitating lives which the women likely led. In her view the victims were not just victims but real people with a heart, a soul, and each led a sad life only to experience a devastatingly painful ending, their deaths being recorded as one of the ‘worst slaughters’ in British history.

Acheson effectively leads you away from the blood and gore for a little while, only to entice you into a warm lodging house where you will find the prostitutes laughing drunkenly by the fireside on a bitter cold night, and if you follow them to their private quarters you can sit and watch them shed their tears.

The ebook is currently available at a discount price at Amazon UK Amazon US

twvcover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further reading and related sources:

Mike Covell – IMDB – TV Production credits

Jack The Ripper Casebook – The Victims and an insight into the murders.

Fifty Shades of Victorian London – An interesting invitation into Whitechapel and the novel by Carla Acheson.

The Whitechapel Virgin – The author discusses her concept and research into the story.

The Victorians and Sex – Yes you may think the Victorians were a particularly prudish bunch – but think again!

 

dreamsanddedications

Yin Yang

Yin Yang

She was my mirror image.
My life in reverse.
We were the Moon and Stars. Yin and Yang. Light and Dark. Fire and Ice. Throw any damn cliché you like into the mix and that’s what we were.

Emmy was born two moments after me. This made me her big sister by practically nothing. I came out of my mother’s womb yelling and she came out grabbing my ankle. Apparently.

Mom says we always did everything in turn. When I ate, Emmy puked. When Emmy puked, I shat. When I didn’t cry Emmy bawled.. ad infinitum. We were difficult. No question.

Even when Emmy and I, (Sharlene by the way) grew to our teens we continued on that far flung vein of opposition. I passed English Language, she flunked it and passed Math instead. When I joined the Hockey Team she joined Junior Basketball. When we liked boys? No Problem! Because Emmy never liked the same boy as me. It just seemed like our differences were endless.

When Emmy died a year ago I thought my life would end two minutes later.
It didn’t.

It didn’t even end a week, or a month later. I continued to breathe whilst Emmy was buried in dirt where her lungs must have dried up and collapsed like crumbling rock. There are times I wish that I had died instead, or with her. I know that’s morbid, but Emmy and me, we belong together even though we are two separate people.

If I told you the whole story about Emmy and me, you’d think we were two peas in a different pod. I’ll let you decide on that anyway. I just need to get it down, out, where it doesn’t hurt me anymore.

In 2004 Emmy and I were watching different shows in different rooms on two different TV’s. See? We couldn’t even agree on watching the same show together. Then I heard a bang through the wall which sounded too much like skull knocking on hard floor. I jumped off my bed and ran from my olive bedroom to her deep purple one.

She was lying there, twisted, like someone had picked her up and dropped her from the ceiling. I can’t really remember what happened next but there was a lot of noise and just a few hours later Emmy was in the ITU fighting to live.
Whilst inside I was fighting to die.

She had contracted Meningitis. The disease went straight to her brain and we were told that the next twelve hours would be critical.

Well one decent thing I can say is that Emmy ‘mentally’ died watching her favourite stupid reality show. She also died in clean underwear which is something she used to worry about. The following morning after her death she was due to receive a badge of honour for helping primary care children with ‘special needs’ learn to read. Her badge was collected anyway and placed inside her coffin. I remember how much I wanted to tear out my heart and put it inside with her.

The most horrible thing about Emmy’s death is that I am still alive. And those things she left behind? Boy they really sting! Maybe you don’t need to know about them but I’m telling you anyway because it’s Emmy’s most final mark on the planet.

It’s a long long list that reads like ‘The Ending of Emmy.’

A half sucked lolly pop stuck to her pillow. Two paranormal books, dog-eared, scattered on her bed (subjects I hate, but finished for her.) A pair of new heels to collect for the prom. A prom dress to collect from the laundromat. A boy who can’t take her to the prom. (I’d go with him but, meh, he’s not my type.) A promise to me that she’d pay me back $5 (I forgave her for skipping out on that.) A half finished sketch of a horse (why did she love those stinky animals so much anyway?)

The one that hurts me most is that promise! Crazy?
A promise that we would never leave each other alone.
God, Emmy, you failed that one miserably.

So a few times over the course of that year I tried to end my life, but each time I tried I was saved or I was too freakin’ scared to go through with it. Then came the pills, they kept me awake and shivering at night and helped me to forget how to live during the day. But that wasn’t exactly kosher in the real world because the world only responds when you sit up and pay attention to it.
Live by the rules.

Anyway, I couldn’t get my act together afterwards, and fourteen months after Emmy’s death Mom had a nervous breakdown. Dad had an affair.
In the end I was a complete basket case, written off as Emmy’s ‘poor disturbed twin.’ Could I blame Emmy for all of that? Well, I could, but I don’t. I too kinda lost my life in a tragic way, but you know what really stings me the most?
The fact that I can’t join my sister.

And why?

Because Emmy would kick my ass on the other side. I couldn’t die because that would make us the same, and we never ever were. I would do anything to swap seats with Emmy. To leave her a damn list called ‘The Ending of Sharlene.’ She could finish my books, suck on my lolly pop and leave FIVE GODDAM DOLLARS INSIDE MY COFFIN!

But that wasn’t the script. And I know I shouldn’t be mad with her because she didn’t write it.

Emmy you suck but I love you from the bottom of my soul to the furthermost galaxy.

Let’s face it. We were always going to be opposites, she and I. Always. And perhaps my ending will be her new beginning.

I figured that the life of a twin is strange, but nothing can change that we are yin, we are yang.
We are fire and ice.
Light and dark.

My twin Emmy.

yinyang

dreamsanddedications

Goodreads Giveaway – The Whitechapel Virgin

The very popular book site Goodreads.com is hosting a ‘giveaway’ of The Whitechapel Virgin. To enter all you need to do is click on the ‘Enter’ button and add your delivery details. The contest runs for a month so you can enter anytime up to June 20th when Goodreads will pick one winner, the competition ends, and they will receive a free paperback.

I want to thank to Goodreads for their continued great work with publishers and authors, and also to the amazing people who have enjoyed my work and continue to support me.

Goodreads Giveaway Link below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Whitechapel Virgin by Carla Acheson

The Whitechapel Virgin

by Carla Acheson

Giveaway ends June 20, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway