Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen
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‘Palmer spins a cracking tale that, despite its disconcerting subject, is piquantly cheerful and compassionate . . . With empathy and imagination, Palmer explores the master/apprentice relationship, first love and first rivalry, spite and kindness: conjuring a world to raise a wry smile’ New York Times
A stunning, powerfully evocative new novel based on a true story – in 1726 in the small town of Godalming, England, a young woman confounds the medical community by giving birth to dead rabbits.
Surgeon John Howard is a rational man. His apprentice Zachary knows John is reluctant to believe anything that purports to exist outside the realm of logic. But even John cannot explain how or why Mary Toft, the wife of a local farmer, manages to give birth to a dead rabbit. When this singular event becomes a regular occurrence, John realizes that nothing in his experience as a village physician has prepared him to deal with a situation as disturbing as this. He writes to several preeminent surgeons in London, three of whom quickly arrive in the small town of Godalming ready to observe and opine.
When Mary’s plight reaches the attention of King George, Mary and her doctors are summoned to London, where Zachary experiences for the first time a world apart from his small-town existence, and is exposed to some of the darkest corners of the human soul. All the while, Mary lies in bed, waiting for another birth, as doubts begin to blossom among the surgeons and a growing group of onlookers grow impatient for another miracle . . .
Palmer brilliantly fictionalizes the true story of Mary Toft . . . [He] evocatively captures the period . . . But more impressive are the novel's inquiries into the human concerns of wonder, denial, and belief. . . Palmer skillfully and rewardingly delves into the humanity at the heart of this true historical oddity * Publishers Weekly * Deft, droll, and provocatively philosophical . . . A novel that attempts to illuminate 'the slippery nature of truth,' when everything from God to reality is up for grabs * Kirkus Reviews (starred review) * Like the historical fiction of Hillary Mantel or Caryl Phillips, Palmer does not shy away from the depravity of the past, particularly the violent desires of London's elite. Expertly utilizing an actual bizarre historical event to explore faith, reason, and the foundations of our current economic system, this exhaustively researched and dexterously constructed novel is another triumph to add to Palmer's incredibly diverse corpus of works * Booklist review (starred) * The Rabbit Queen is provoking in ways that reach well beyond the premise, anticipating as it does our own 'world of ash,' with all its spectacle, factionalism, and noise. It is vividly composed and audaciously imagined, filled with characters who do battle against a world that perceives them as strange - or who, conversely, assume strangeness as a mask in order to induce the world to see them at all. It is yet another wonder in Dexter Palmer's cabinet of wonders * Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Brief History of the Dead * Wonderful! The kind of novel that you want to read and then discuss with other readers. But then Dexter Palmer is a writer like Hilary Mantel or Kate Atkinson, able to move between genres and time periods, by virtue of the almost supernatural sympathy he is able to invoke for his characters and the sense of the worlds they inhabit. * Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble *
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