Summary and book reviews of Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg

Confessions of the Fox

by Jordy Rosenberg

Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg X
Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2018, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2019, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
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About this Book

Book Summary

A love story set in the eighteenth-century London of notorious thieves and queer subcultures, this genre-bending debut tells a profound story of gender, desire, and liberation.

Jack Sheppard and Edgeworth Bess were the most notorious thieves, jailbreakers, and lovers of eighteenth-century London. Yet no one knows the true story; their confessions have never been found.

Until now. Reeling from heartbreak, a scholar named Dr. Voth discovers a long-lost manuscript - a gender-defying exposé of Jack and Bess's adventures. Dated 1724, the book depicts a London underworld where scamps and rogues clash with the city's newly established police force, queer subcultures thrive, and ominous threats of the Plague abound. Jack - a transgender carpenter's apprentice - has fled his master's house to become a legendary prison-break artist, and Bess has escaped the draining of the fenlands to become a revolutionary. 

Is Confessions of the Fox an authentic autobiography or a hoax? Dr. Voth obsessively annotates the manuscript, desperate to find the answer. As he is drawn deeper into Jack and Bess's tale of underworld resistance and gender transformation, it becomes clear that their fates are intertwined - and only a miracle will save them all.

Confessions of the Fox is, at once, a work of speculative historical fiction, a soaring love story, a puzzling mystery, an electrifying tale of adventure and suspense, and an unabashed celebration of sex and sexuality. Writing with the narrative mastery of Sarah Waters and the playful imagination of Nabokov, Jordy Rosenberg is an audacious storyteller of extraordinary talent. 

Excerpt
Confessions of the Fox

But others say it went back much further than that. That the road to the gallows began before the Plague Ships. Before Bess. Before Aurie. Before Jack became the most notorious Gaol-breaker London had yet known. Back when he stumbl'd through life delirious as a light-bedevil'd Moth.

His mum made clear she'd had enough of Jack the day she brought him to the master carpenter Kneebone's doorstep in October 1713. As she marched him down Regent Street, sweat formed at the edges of her hairline, pinkening her alabaster face paint.

"Be a good girl.Do what you're told. Behave. Don't act shameful," she said, regarding Jack sourly. They crossed dubious, slough-filled Tyburn and headed towards Cavendish Square. Sparrows nattered on hedges, tumbled in dust baths Underfoot, disregarding the burghers and high-toned ladies sweeping by.

His mother snapp'd her knuckle into his ribs as they approached the brown oak door.

"And walk like...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Confessions of the Fox is a complex novel with layers of meaning and textual questioning that would merit discussion in an academic tutorial and may push away the average reader. That said, Rosenberg's writing is top-notch, his talent is undeniable and his evocation of early eighteenth-century London is a pleasure to read.   (Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite).

Full Review Members Only (438 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A singular, daring, and thrilling novel: political, sexy, and cunning as a fox.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Astonishing and mesmerizing ... [Jordy] Rosenberg is an ebullient and witty storyteller.

Booklist
Starred Review. Resonant of George Saunders, of Nikolai Gogol, and of nothing that's ever been written before ... irreverent, erudite, and not to be missed.

Author Blurb Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent
Quite simply extraordinary ... Imagine if Maggie Nelson, Daphne du Maurier, and Daniel Defoe collaborated? That.

Author Blurb Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble
Confessions of the Fox is an astonishing, bawdy, dazzling triumph of a book.

Author Blurb Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan
A genre-bending, high-octane thrill from beginning to end ... I couldn't put it down.

Author Blurb China MiĂ©ville, author of The Last Days of New Paris
Extraordinary and brilliant ... At once a queer love story, radical counterhistory, and a thrilling page-turner, Confessions of the Fox is a vitally important work of our time.

Author Blurb Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night
A triumphant debut ... Adventure and erudition meet with a loose-limbed poetry in every sentence, and the result is a magician's trick of a novel but on a grand scale.

Author Blurb Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
A riotous and transporting novel. It's rich in the sound of another time, while thrillingly germane to our own. Jordy Rosenberg is a total original - part scamp, part genius - who has written a rollicking page-turner of a first novel. Hang on for the ride.

Author Blurb Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling
Hot damn! Jordy Rosenberg is one of the finest new talents I've seen in many years. Confessions of the Fox is an incredibly smart book that's also one hell of a good read.

Author Blurb Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me
A magnificent debut ... an intellectual thrill ride whose relentless wit made me shout with delight, a queer historical romance that speaks directly to our contemporary moment, and the sexiest book I've read in a long, long time.

Author Blurb Eileen Myles, author of Chelsea Girls
I devoured this book because of its Dickensian devotion to gnarly historical steam punk realism. Really it's such an obsessive read, sad it was over. I couldn't stop wanting to go there.

Author Blurb Fred Moten, author of Black and Blur
Beauty and violence go together; and what it is to live and practice that entanglement, under the duress of the cops in our streets and in our heads, is what Confessions of the Fox shows with lively, sexy brilliance.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Historical Characters in Confessions of the Fox

Jack Sheppard
Jack Sheppard was born in London in 1702. As described in The Confessions of the Fox, Sheppard was apprenticed to a carpenter before succumbing to the attractions of the inns and whorehouses of Drury Lane.

Jack Sheppard, in Newgate Prison awaiting execution He began a relationship with a prostitute, Elizabeth Lyon, known as Edgeware Bess, and took to petty theft. By 1724, the 22-year-old Sheppard, his brother and Bess were operating as burglars. Sheppard was first arrested in April 1724 but broke out of prison within two hours by making a hole in the roof. One month later, he and Bess were arrested together but escaped by climbing out of a window and down a rope made from sheets and her dress and petticoat.

These escapades brought him celebrity and notoriety, ...

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