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The Hartlepool Monkey

by Sean Longley


Perhaps the one thing that quite a few people know about the north-eastern town of Hartlepool is that in the late 18th†century its inhabitants mistook a monkey for a French spy and hanged it.†Starting with this one small incident Mr. Longley has created a whole novel. Parisian doctor Simon Legris, who finds the monkey in Africa and brings it home, calls it Jacques LeSinge and teaches it to understand French.†Simon takes a job with an ailing French aristocrat, but Jacques gets him dismissed after he is accused of assaulting the manís wife.†That is only their first adventure...

Here is a novel that is by turns witty and macabre, a satire on all things associated with that "Age of Reason," the 18th†century.†From French aristos to the French Revolution, Nobles Savages, dashing English spies and strange radical ideas to ignorance and injustice there is not only a lot to say about the times concerned, but also about our own times.†I tended to find it a book that thought itself funnier than it actually was, but fortunately one that had a lot more to say for itself than most comic novels.†This is the kind of book that makes you think, and which stands apart from both its riotous story and its humor to stay in the mind for some time afterwards.

The Book

Black Swan (Transworld UK)
9 April 2009
0552774235 / 9780552774239
Historical Fiction / Late 18th†century Paris, London & Hartlepool
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2009
© 2009