Summary and book reviews of The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

The Fair Fight

by Anna Freeman

The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2015, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2016, 480 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

The Crimson Petal and the White meets Fight Club: A page-turning novel set in the world of female pugilists and their patrons in late eighteenth-century England.

Moving from a filthy brothel to a fine manor house, from the world of street fighters to the world of champions, The Fair Fight is a vivid, propulsive historical novel announcing the arrival of a dynamic new talent.

Born in a brothel, Ruth doesn't expect much for herself beyond abuse. While her sister's beauty affords a certain degree of comfort, Ruth's harsh looks set her on a path of drudgery. That is until she meets pugilist patron George Dryer and discovers her true calling - fighting bare knuckles in the prize rings of Bristol.

Manor-born Charlotte has a different cross to bear. Scarred by smallpox, stifled by her social and romantic options, and trapped in twisted power games with her wastrel brother, she is desperate for an escape.

After a disastrous, life-changing fight sidelines Ruth, the two women meet, and it alters the perspectives of both of them. When Charlotte presents Ruth with an extraordinary proposition, Ruth pushes dainty Charlotte to enter the ring herself and learn the power of her own strength.

A gripping, page-turning story about people struggling to transcend the circumstances into which they were born and fighting for their own places in society, The Fair Fight is a raucous, intoxicating tale of courage, reinvention, and fighting one's way to the top.

Chapter 1

Some folks call the prize-ring a nursery for vice. Boxing is talked against by all the magistrates and held up as unlawful and wild, even sometimes called unchristian. As I see it, those pious old smatchets are right, but what of it? Prize-fighting is all those things, but more, it's beautiful. The sight of two people—for it's not only men, you know, who take the ring— who've built their skills and their bodies, struggling together with nothing between them, no ball or stick, but only desperate force and the will to live—why, there's the root of all mankind, the stuff of our lives played out. Till you've seen one pug, bare chest steaming in the frosty air, half blinded by his own blood, drop the other to his knees on the frozen turf and turn to roar to the sky, well, if you ain't seen it, you can't know. It brings you to the base of yourself; just the sight brings a bellow to the throat. Prize-fighting is named "the noble ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
See also the topics discussed in BookBrowse's Book Club

  1. How do you interpret the title of the novel?

  2.  Did you find your sympathies with the characters shifting with the moves between the different narrators?

  3. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story from three different points of view?

  4. Although the book is set in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, it is easy to identify with the characters. How has the author achieved this?

  5. The author has said that she was fascinated by the fact that "women were out there beating one another up on stage whilst Jane Austen was sipping tea." Has The Fair Fight changed your ideas about what life must have been like in Georgian times?

  6. &...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The Fair Fight. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

Compare the author to other historical fiction writers-
I have read Sarah Waters and I saw that she endorsed this book. How do you think this author compares to others writing in a similar era? - N*Starr

Even though the book is set two centuries ago it's easy to identify with the characters. Why do you think that is?
The characters have the same struggles as all "characters" do in real life. We are not always dealt with a good hand. What we do with the hand is defined as the courage it takes to change our lives. - JAKL1

Has The Fair Fight changed your ideas about what life must have been like in Georgian times?
Life certainly did not sound ideal. Has society changed do much or just the part that is observed? Perry's attraction to George and their need to hide it. The open brothels that were known by all. Prize fighting was popular with many. This was ... - Peggy H

How do you interpret the title of the novel?
"The Fair Fight" means that everyone is entitled to fight for their beliefs in a fair way. Sometimes the fight may not seem fair at the time. But in the end the fight will make you stronger for fighting the fight. - JAKL1

Were you surprised that women's boxing matches were held in the 18th century?
I had never really thought about it as I have never really had much interest in boxing or wrestling. However, I understand janen's point that men have always liked a "girl's fight." I think it is very sad that anyone had to live in the way that ... - ritah

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Fair Fight is an old-fashioned, well-written historical fiction novel that leaves you feeling good. Readers who enjoy historical fiction in general and England during this time period will find much to love here. The subject matter is unusual and entertaining and the richly drawn characters make this one a winner.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review (596 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Gamblers, drinkers, fighters, hookers; the fancy, the rowdy, the rude - Freeman does a wonderful job of spinning this furious yarn, in which the fury of women plays the lead role. Great characters and wild turns of events make this book a knockout.

Library Journal

Starred Review. A ripping fine yarn ... Thoroughly entertaining and highly recommended.

The Times (UK)

Anna Freeman's familiarity with this rough and raunchy period of history and her wonderfully imagined cast of characters, often down but never out, makes this a brilliant debut novel.

The Bookseller (UK)

Truly bears comparison with Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White as first-time author Freeman … brings the 18th century to throbbing life, in an immersive novel rich with extraordinary characters and a cracking plot.

The Sunday Times (UK)

Lively and original.

Times Literary Supplement (UK)

Enthralling.

The Sunday Express (UK)

[A] cracking debut ... A lively, rambunctious read.

Author Blurb National-bestselling author of The Painted Girls, Cathy Marie Buchanan
In sensuous, evocative prose, The Fair Fight wholly captures the spirit of 18th century Bristol's female pugilists and their patrons... a fabulous piece of writing.

Author Blurb New York Times-bestselling author Sarah Waters
The Fair Fight is a hugely exciting and entertaining novel, written with warmth, charm, authority and, above all, terrific flair. I loved it.

Reader Reviews

Windsong

Seeing 17th century England from a different perspective
Although I am not a fan of boxing, I am recommending this book to all readers who might ignore a book about female boxers in the 18th century. The brutality and consequences of the boxers' life in the ring are there, but Anna Freeman uses that ...   Read More

Cariola

Hard to Put Down
'The Fair Fight' is an excellent and highly original historical novel It's set in late 18th-century England, and revolves around the daughter of a madam who becomes a female boxer (she fights only men, however). There's a lot more to the story than...   Read More

Terri C

The Fair Fight
The fair fight follows the lives of Ruth Webber, born in a brothel and a commoner who is thrust into boxing and finds her strength and love of her life, both in vocation as well as in a man who steals her heart, and of Charlotte who was scarred by ...   Read More

Brenda S

emotionally engaging
The story is told in the voice of a different character for each chapter with one character being of the wealthy elite while another is of the down trodden poor. The author uses great descriptive language to show the disparity between these two ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Bare-Knuckle Boxing

Bare-knuckle fighting has probably existed ever since humanity learned to make a fist, and it has been practiced as a sport since at least the 3rd millennium BCE. The earliest records are found in Sumerian reliefs from that time period, and ancient Egyptian artwork from the 2nd millennium BCE depicts an audience watching barefisted contestants. The ancient Greeks believed that the gods on Mount Olympus boxed for sport, and consequently made it part of the Olympic Games in 688 BCE. Homer also makes reference to boxing in The Iliad - the earliest written version of which dates to roughly the same time period.

Boxing lost popularity as Rome declined and wasn't revived until the late 17th century in England. The first documented "boxing ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Fair Fight, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice


Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

An eye-opening and riveting look at how how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Seven Days of Us
    by Francesca Hornak

    A warm, wry debut novel about a family forced to spend a week together over the holidays.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Wisdom of Sundays

The Wisdom of Sundays
by Oprah Winfrey

Life-changing insights from super soul conversations.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A Good M I H T F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.