Wednesday 3 July 2024

Book Review: Mary and the Rabbit Dream by Noémi Kiss-Deáki (Historical Fiction)

Mary and the Rabbit Dream
Noémi Kiss-Deáki
Coach House Books
10 September 2024
eBook - PDF
Historical Fiction
ARC via Edelweiss

A sardonic, feminist reimagining of the story of Mary Toft, infamous rabbit-birthing hoaxer.

Mary Toft was just another eighteenth-century woman living in poverty, misery, and frequent pain. The kind of person overlooked by those with power, forgotten by historians.

Mary Toft was nothing. Until, that is, Mary Toft started giving birth to rabbits…

Mary and the Rabbit Dream, the sensational debut novelist Noémi Kiss-Deáki reimagines Mary’s strange and fascinating story – and how she found fame when a large swathe of England became convinced that she was the mother of rabbits.

Mary and the Rabbit Dream is a story of bodily autonomy, of absurdity, of the horrors inflicted on women, of the cruel realities of poverty, and the grotesque divides between rich and poor. It’s a book that matters deeply – and it’s also a compelling page-turner. A story told with exquisite wit, skill, and a beautiful streak of subversive mischief. 

I had heard the story of Mary Toft somewhere before in my history non-fiction reading, and I really enjoyed Mary and the Rabbit Dream's feminist take on it, considering Mary's predicament as she is passed from overbearing female relatives to the male doctors, some of whom believed the tale of birthing rabbits and others who wished to expose the fraud. It looks at the power balance at the time between rich and poor, men and women, all presented in a way that at times feels absurd but at others makes you pity the position Mary was in. There is a dreamlike feel to the prose which adds to the sense of unreality in the story. It was a quick read but one that provokes much thought. I am giving it four stars. I would definitely read more from this author in the future.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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