Sunday 21 October 2018

Book Review: Gentleman Jack - A Biography of Anne Lister by Angela Steidele (Non-Fiction)

Title: Gentleman Jack: A Biography of Anne Lister
Author: Angela Steidele
Serpent's Tail/Profile Books

Publication Date: 1 November 2018
eBook - PDF
ARC via NetGalley


Anne Lister was a Yorkshire heiress, an intrepid world traveller and a proud lesbian during a time when it was difficult simply to be female. She chose to remain unmarried, dressed all in black and spoke openly of her lack of interest in men. The first woman to climb Vignemale in the treacherous Pyrenees, she journeyed as far as Azerbaijan and slept with a pistol under her pillow. As daring as Don Juan and as passionate as Heathcliff, Anne would not be constrained by the mores of Regency society.

Anne's diaries lay hidden for many years, before scholars were brave enough to crack their code. Her erotic confessions and lively letters tell the story of an extraordinary woman. In this groundbreaking new book, celebrated author Angela Steidele gives a fresh perspective on the life of a cult historical figure.

Gentleman Jack was an interesting read on many levels—firstly, as a commentary on the life of a lesbian in the early 19th century, and secondly, as an account of a fascinating woman who did some amazing things in the course of her life. Anne Lister was certainly quite a character, and while I was intrigued by her romantic exploits, it was more her extensive travels that gripped me. This work shines a light on a little-known figure who deserves more recognition. The only reason I give this book four stars rather than five is the fact that, at times, I found the prose style a little tiresome. Although the story captivated me, the writing didn't. However, I certainly recommend this work to readers interested in queer history or those simply looking to learn more about fascinating personalities from the past.

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