(Side note: Before you say it, I know, the cover is doing way too much. The one I read had a more reserved one 😂)
'The butcher's hook' is a historical fiction, set in 1700's Britain, about how Anne (the protagonist) pushes back/navigates a potential arranged marriage that her father (mainly) was trying to force (coerce?) her into.
What surprised me about the story line was Anne's soft and almost commendable descent (or growth?) into a (psychopathic) serial killer. The motivations behind the killings were complex and I loved that.
- Anne was (sort of) seeing Fub, a young butcher
- Her former teacher found out and threatened to expose this relationship to her father
- She killed the teacher (who had also sexually assaulted her when she was younger)
- Then killed a boy who essentially knew she killed the teacher
- Then killed Margaret (Fub's potential future wife/partner, who appears slightly later) and in the process burns the butcher shop that Fub works at)
Initially, it seemed (to me) like the killings were to create space for her relationship with Fub (because I thought, "Anne, why don't you just kill your dad? Why this long thing fam?") ... but as her relationship with Fub becomes more fractured (as he becomes more indecisive about his feelings, the context of their relationship, their future etc), something happens (I remember getting to the end of the book and thinking, "Anne, is there something you didn't tell me?"). As much as the first killing was about protecting her relationship with Fub, it was also about revenge ... and discovery; the discovery of murder as a logical and viable thing, and what that meant for her as a person. (Sort of like 'Dexter', where he almost equally killed as a form of retributive justice but also because that was how he understood himself ... as a killer. There was a joy in setting up the kill room and dismembering the bodies and saving slides of blood). I mean, she also wanted to kill her baby sister and eventually killed Margaret when she fully knew that Fub was a wasteman 😂
After she kills Margaret, burns the butcher shop and Fub goes to see her the next day ... she's so bored and unmoved by his brokenness and tears. She's almost irritated by these human responses to tragedy, like, "How dare you be so weak and small?"... And, I loved it; this complicated, almost disordered way people feel and react to things, and the lack of language to explain it in a coherent or sequential way, makes me dance a little, because people are complicated and heavy ... and good fiction captures that.
Some bars from the book:
I did not have the words to find out properly what I wanted to know.
I cannot speak. Like a bucket full to the brim, I have been carrying myself carefully in front of her.
He's looking at me as if he'd just bought me and I was worth more than he paid.
He looks damaged, as though he had been broken down to his constituent parts and reassembled ineptly.
I thought he had left me satisfied, but I am hungry again. That is another new sensation.