I love historical fiction, and I love reading diverse books. They’re easily two of my favorite things. So when I found a diverse historical fiction book with a trans main character, my response was yes, please! Jordy Rosenberg’s Confessions of the Fox is an intriguing story with not one, but two trangender main characters. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a transgender character in historical fiction (though I have read historical nonfiction that fits the bill), and it was just really great to see.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) Set in the eighteenth century London underworld, this bawdy, genre-bending novel reimagines the life of thief and jailbreaker Jack Sheppard to tell a profound story about gender, love, and liberation.
Recently jilted and increasingly unhinged, Dr. Voth throws himself into his work, obsessively researching the life of Jack Sheppard, a legendary eighteenth century thief. No one knows Jack’s true story—his confessions have never been found. That is, until Dr. Voth discovers a mysterious stack of papers titled Confessions of the Fox.
Dated 1724, the manuscript tells the story of an orphan named P. Sold into servitude at twelve, P struggles for years with her desire to live as “Jack.” When P falls dizzyingly in love with Bess, a sex worker looking for freedom of her own, P begins to imagine a different life. Bess brings P into the London underworld where scamps and rogues clash with London’s newly established police force, queer subcultures thrive, and ominous threats of an oncoming plague abound. At last, P becomes Jack Sheppard, one of the most notorious—and most wanted—thieves in history.
Back in the present, Dr. Voth works feverishly day and night to authenticate the manuscript. But he’s not the only one who wants Jack’s story—and some people will do whatever it takes to get it. As both Jack and Voth are drawn into corruption and conspiracy, it becomes clear that their fates are intertwined—and only a miracle will save them both.
An imaginative retelling of Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, Confessions of the Fox blends high-spirited adventure, subversive history, and provocative wit to animate forgotten histories and the extraordinary characters hidden within.
First of all, major props to Jordy Rosenberg for writing a historial fiction story featuring transgender and marginalized. I am not part of the LGBT community, but this made me really happy to see. It’s definitely something we need more of. I really appreciated that aspect of this book.
As for the story itself, I have some mixed feelings. To be totally fair, I haven’t been in a great space lately, and reading anything has been a challenge. So, while I found the story interesting, I had a hard time getting into it. There was just a lot going on. And some things felt kind of overdone. The footnotes, for example. Now, I’m all for some good footnotes, and these were definitely entertaining, but there were just SO MANY of them. (And, since I had a digital ARC, it was hard to keep up with them. Not the fault of the book, just something that may have made them feel more inconvenient for me, personally.) I think this book might have benefited from the author being a bit more selective about the footnotes.
I also felt like this book suffered a bit from MFA syndrome. (In which the author must show off the brilliant skills they learned from their MFA.) Which isn’t surprising since the author is a professor. Kind of ironic since I have a master’s in English and creative writing, but I tend to find books written by MFAs to be a bit overwritten and pretentious. This one wasn’t particularly egregious, but I noticed it. And let’s just say it’s not my favorite thing.
Overall, though, this wasn’t a bad book. I think the story was solid, and the diversity in this book easily bumped it up a star for me.
★★★☆☆ – Did I love Confessions of the Fox? No. But I liked it. And I think I’d give this author another shot in the future. If you’re looking for some unique, diverse, historical fiction, I think this is worth a read.
Confessions of the Fox will be available for purchase June 26th. You can preorder your copy on Amazon now!
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Confessions of the Fox as one of your two free books.
This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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