Originally published: 21 July 2022
Author: Frances Quinn
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 448 pages
Reading dates: 25-28 July 2022
It’s usual, they say, for a young person coming to London for the first time to arrive with a head full of dreams. Well, Endurance Proudfoot did not. When she stepped off the coach from Sussex, on a warm and sticky afternoon in the summer of 1757, it never occurred to her that the city would be the place where she’d make her fortune; she was just very annoyed to be arriving there at all.
Meet Endurance Proudfoot: clumsy as a carthorse, strong as an ox, with a tactless tongue and a face she’s sure only a mother could love. Durie wants one thing in life: to become a bonesetter like her father. It’s physically demanding work, requiring nerves of steel, and he’s adamant it’s not a job for a woman.
Strong-willed and stubborn, Durie’s certain that in bonesetting, her big, usually clumsy hands have found their natural calling. So when she’s bundled off to London with her beautiful sister, she won’t let it stop her realising her dream. As her sister finds fame on the stage, Durie becomes England’s most celebrated bonesetter – but what goes up must come down, and her success may become her undoing.
Inspired by the true stories of two of Georgian England’s most famous celebrities, That Bonesetter Woman is an uplifting tale about finding the courage to go your own way, when everyone says you can’t – and about realising that what makes you different can also make you strong.
I read and enjoyed The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn earlier this year so I knew I was going to enjoy That Bonesetter Woman, just as much.
Durie and her sister Lucinda arrive in London in the summer of 1757 from the town of Lewes to stay with their aunt, a successful business woman. Lucinda is pregnant and has been sent to London by her parents in order to have the baby in secret before returning to Lewes, keeping her reputation intact.
Durie is annoyed by this. Before Lucinda found herself pregnant, she had just persuaded her father to teach her the art of bonesetting, something she had a natural talent for but being a male profession, her father was in two minds about letting her practise, instead wanting her younger brother to be his successor. Unlike Lucinda who is beautiful, delicate and has a way with words, Durie is often clumsy and not feminine at all but had a natural talent for the manipulation of bones and enjoyed the work.
When Lucinda becomes a well known actress in London, after giving birth and leaving her baby at a foundling hospital, Durie still hasn’t given up her dream of being a bonesetter but sees no future in Lewes as her father has taken on her brother as his apprentice. But one day she helps a young boy from a well connected family who has dislocated his arm falling out of a carriage and soon her services with the upper class become popular thanks to her aunt who manages her business.
I loved reading about London in this period, especially the lions that Durie visits at the Tower of London. Quinn does a great job of capturing the essence and atmosphere of London in the min 1700s.
A fantastic tale of two very different sisters, a story of rags to riches with a fair share of heartbreak along the way, Durie is just the most fantastic character. She can be blunt but she is kind and loving and has so much spirit and persistence that you can’t fail to love her. I also really liked Aunt Ellen who is a smart independent business woman who has the girls best interest at heart, and encourages them to not to rely on men!
I found I couldn’t put That Bonesetter Woman down. It made me furious at times, especially with the way many of the male characters act but Durie is just such a brilliant character! Quinn has weaved her magic again with another brilliant story based loosely around real people. A triumph – I loved it!
With thanks to Frances for reaching me out and offering me a proof copy and to Simon & Schuster for sending it to me.
About the author:
Frances Quinn grew up in London and read English at King’s College, Cambridge, realising too late that the course would require more than lying around reading novels for three years. After snatching a degree from the jaws of laziness, she became a journalist, writing for magazines including Prima, Good Housekeeping, She, Woman’s Weekly and Ideal Home, and later branched out into copywriting, producing words for everything from Waitrose pizza packaging to the EasyJet in-flight brochure.
In 2013, she won a place on the Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course, and started work on her first novel. The Smallest Man was published in 2021 by Simon & Schuster with her follow up, That Bonesetter Woman, set for 2022.
She lives in Brighton, with her husband and two Tonkinese cats.