Reviews of A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy Jago

A Net for Small Fishes

by Lucy Jago

A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy Jago X
A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy Jago
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Nov 2021, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Nov 8, 2022, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Maria Katsulos
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About this Book

Book Summary

Wolf Hall meets The Favourite in Lucy Jago's A Net For Small Fishes, a gripping dark novel based on the true scandal of two women determined to create their own fates in the Jacobean court.

With Frankie, I could have the life I had always wanted...and with me she could forge something more satisfying from her own...

When Frances Howard, beautiful but unhappy wife of the Earl of Essex, meets the talented Anne Turner, the two strike up an unlikely, yet powerful, friendship. Frances makes Anne her confidante, sweeping her into a glamorous and extravagant world, riven with bitter rivalry.

As the women grow closer, each hopes to change her circumstances. Frances is trapped in a miserable marriage while loving another, and newly-widowed Anne struggles to keep herself and her six children alive as she waits for a promised proposal. A desperate plan to change their fortunes is hatched. But navigating the Jacobean court is a dangerous game and one misstep could cost them everything.

1

The servant led the way as if into battle, his torch throwing monstrous shadows of my form against the walls. Fog muffled the light and dewed the stone. Although midmorning, the place felt to be just waking.

As we threaded our way through a maze of passages, the cries of a woman disturbed the torpid peace. The servant sped up. It troubled me that we charged toward the sounds of anguish.

I confess, so that you hold no illusion of me, I have never learned to govern most of my faults, nor even tried very hard, especially those of ambition, curiosity and pride. A godly woman would have run from that place as from the maw of hell; everyone knows that the jeweled façades of courtiers thinly veil their greedy, scurrilous, vain, lascivious souls.

Me? I rushed in.

Crossing an inner courtyard, we passed a fountain on which figures in pale marble wrestled, their naked limbs frosted by the English winter. The water at their feet was stopped and a stench rose from the puddle in its scalloped bowl...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

On the whole, Jago paints a realistic, believable portrait of early 17th-century London. I particularly enjoyed her close attention to describing the dress of nobility; as her narrator Anne is a tailor and fashion designer, it made sense for those details to be the ones that stood out. Rather than focusing on James's relationships with his favorites, Jago places women at the center of this story in a way that is often not seen in historical narrative...continued

Full Review Members Only (703 words).

(Reviewed by Maria Katsulos).

Media Reviews

Washington Post
Uncompromisingly dark though it often is, A Net for Small Fishes is also highly satisfying entertainment.

Stylist (UK)
Will bring wit, wisdom, joy and comfort to your reading pile...There's no messing about in Lucy Jago's A Net For Small Fishes. From the first chapter you're plunged into the dark intrigues, violence, vying for position and cruelty of the 17th century Jacobean court as society beauty Frances Howard meets Anne Turner, whose way with bodices, stockings and eyelashes is unequalled.

The Times (UK)
A powerful take on a fascinating piece of history.

Booklist (starred review)
Jago presents a realistic and absorbing tale based on historical events, convincingly portraying the Jacobean period and personal relationships during that time between husband and wife, lovers, and female friends. Her characterization is rock-solid, and Anne's voice resonates in this drama about how life choices, what is permissible and what isn't, especially for women, form a slippery slope that can end at the gallows.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[B]rilliant... Jago's striking depictions of bearbaiting and court mourning, wedding breakfasts and adulterous trysts capture both the brutality and the refinement of Jacobean London. Anne's shrewd narration grounds the novel's explosive drama...It adds up to a remarkable exploration of the power, limits, and price of women's friendship. This is a sparkling achievement.

Kirkus Reviews
Jago's novel retrieves two women 'from the limbo of misogynist stereotype': the Countess of Essex, Frances Howard, and commoner Anne Turner, both of whom were charged with fatally poisoning a courtier in the Overbury scandal, which rocked the court of King James I in early-17th-century England...An empathetic—but not entirely sympathetic—portrait of women in the male-dominated society of post-Elizabethan England.

The Irish Times (Ireland)
A sensuous evocation of 17th-century noble shenanigans. Jago offers a timely lens through which to reconsider power dynamics in Jacobean England...Seamless and stylish...Set in 1609, 69 years after the Mantel trilogy concludes, so those mourning Cromwell may find much to scintillate here.

Author Blurb Alex George, author of The Paris Hours
Based on a true story, A Net for Small Fishes is a magnificently accomplished piece of historical fiction set in Jacobean London. This stunning novel of two brave and independent women doing what they must to survive in a man's world is ripe with scandal and gossip, lust and betrayal, corruption and venality―thoroughly modern resonances, in other words. Lucy Jago marshals all this with consummate skill and wit, but she also writes with tremendous heart. The result is a thoroughly entertaining and deeply satisfying read. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Author Blurb Clare Beams, author of The Illness Lesson
A Net for Small Fishes is strung so tight with suspense that I read with my heart in my throat, watching as Anne and Frankie meet the myriad, shifting treacheries of their lives with an awe-inspiring largeness of spirit, loyalty, and love. This novel immersed me so fully in another world that I seemed to breathe its air, walk its halls―yet for me its greatest achievement lies in the vivid life it gives these women, who are forces of nature but also fully human, and who dare to try to carve out a space in their world that can fit them. Their story is spellbinding.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Sumptuary Laws in Early Modern England

Example of Jacobean era fashion in portrait of woman wearing embroidered lace jacket The heroine of Lucy Jago's A Net for Small Fishes, Anne Turner, has a unique claim to fame: she holds the patent for the saffron-yellow starch that is taking the Jacobean fashion world by storm. Jago beautifully depicts the colorful world of the court at Whitehall, where all the courtiers are constantly trying to outdress each other. However, there were rules to follow in the court when it came to clothing, and they weren't simply a perceived matter of taste. Rather, these rules, which were in the "sumptuary" category — from the Latin sumptuarius, or "belonging to cost or expense" — were codified into law. This was done both to prevent overspending on luxurious materials and to create a visual stratification between social ...

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