I gave this book – 5 Stars ☆☆☆☆☆


Born into a brothel, Ruth’s future looks bleak until she catches the eye of Mr Dryer. A rich Bristol merchant and enthusiast of the ring, he trains gutsy Ruth as a pugilist. Soon she rules the blood-spattered sawdust at the infamous Hatchet Inn.

Dryer’s wife Charlotte lives in the shadows. A grieving orphan, she hides away, scarred by smallpox, ignored by Dryer, and engaged in dangerous mind games with her brother.

When Dryer sidelines Ruth after a disastrous fight, and focuses on training her husband Tom, Charlotte presents Ruth with an extraordinary proposition. As the tension mounts before Tom’s Championship fight, two worlds collide with electrifying consequences.

My Review

This is a gutsy books with the most wonderfully honest language.  I love the the way Freeman draws you closer to the characters giving an understanding of the differences in the classes of the eighteenth century in Bristol.  The title, The Fair Fight has a myriad of meanings within the book, both in the boxing ring, and as a question with regard to the complex relationships between the characters.

Who would have thought a book about women boxers would be so fascinating and entertaining to read?  The way the characters are brought to life with the use of vocabulary and their own thoughts makes this book stand out.  The way Freeman gives speech to her characters so naturally it seems it must be her own way of speaking and brings the eighteenth century alive. This is a book about courage and not giving in, Freeman explains the use of the term for fighters ‘to have bottom’ in her forward as meaning never surrendering.   The description of the boxing is superb and exciting to read.  Thoroughly researched, I felt I learnt so much of life during the period in a way that was seamless throughout the book.

The lives of Dryer and his wife Charlotte, individually become entangled with Ruth and her family highlighting the injustices that were almost expected but nonetheless provokes feelings of  unfairness.  Charlotte recounts the way her brother Perry constantly insults and torments her, provoking an equally acidic reply in verbal sparring.  When Ruth and Charlotte take a kind of comfort in each other the outcome is exciting and satisfying, it is their secret that leaves you smiling in assent when it is revealed publicly.

There is an exciting pace to this book that made me eager to read how each persons story would transpire and I was thoroughly transfixed with their lives.

The pleasure of this book is how it is written not just the story and I would read this book over again and still get enjoyment in the reading.  This is the remarkable thing sets it apart from many novels.

Was there anything I found wanting from The Fair Fight?  The part where the young boys are in boarding school seems a little slow paced after the introduction to the brothel and Ruth, but bear with it because it is a necessary part to understand the characters of Perry, George and Granville.  I personally liked that there was a subtle possible justification for the coldness of the wealthier young men whose class gave them privileges without responsibility with their stories of boyhood survival and boarding school.   This enables an understanding that characters and personalities of men and women then were very different to today and should be seen in context rather than being totally outrageous.

I would recommend this as a most interesting and pleasurable read.


  • Hardcover, 448 pages
  • Expected publication: August 28th 2014
  • ISBN:  139780297871958
  •  http://www.orionbooks.co.uk