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Fanny and Stella
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Fanny and Stella, by Neil McKenna, is the gripping story of the trial that shook Victorian England - a tale of cross-dressing, cross-examinations and the invention of camp.

About the Author

Award-winning journalist and former deputy editor of Elle Decoration, McKenna has also worked as an editor for Channel 4. Working extensively in the gay press he is known for initiating the campaign for gay law reform in the Isle of Man and leading the fight against Clause 25. He is the author of two ground-breaking books about male homosexuality and Aids in the developing world: On the Margins (1996) and The Silent Epidemic (1998). His debut biography, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde, was published in 2003 to wide acclaim.

Reviews

Rich and absorbing ... McKenna has done a tremendous job of recreating Victorian London's gay subculture, weaving newspaper reports, police documents and contemporary diaries into a jolly rollicking narrative. It would be an understatement to call it a colourful book ... Fanny and Stella is a cracking read. Sunday Times Uproarious ... McKenna relates their astonishing story with meticulously researched relish ... McKenna captures their arrest with the same joie de vivre as Stella and Fanny lived their tumultuous lives: a blur of petticoats, shrieks and confusion ... It's a wonderful, gripping and moving story, including a pithy epilogue revealing what happened next to the major players. Tim Burton or Baz Luhrmann must make this into a film. The Times Very seductive. McKenna is rightly confident of the appeal of his funny, dramatic and secretly quite significant story. Financial Times McKenna does an excellent job of dusting [Fanny and Stella] down for the 21st century, testing the limits of his documentary source material and showing what happens when the biographer allows himself the licence to go inside his subject's head. His writing has much of the performative element that characterised Stella and Fanny's appearances on the streets of London and in provincial halls. Showy as a feather boa, McKenna's text takes pleasure in its own silly excess ... Purists and puritans may balk at the book, both its tone and its way of proceeding. But everyone else will have a ball. -- Kathryn Hughes Guardian Gripping and novelistic history ... McKenna has unearthed plentiful evidence. Sunday Telegraph [An] often jaw-dropping tale... Faced with such terrific material, McKenna could easily have told the story straight (as it were). In the event, he puts in a performance easily as theatrical as his heroines in their pomp. While the basic research can't be faulted, he also gives us the inner thoughts of everybody concerned ... A largely irresistible story, complete with a big courtroom finish that I won't spoil. Daily Mail Both a fun and well-researched history. BBC History Magazine You would need to be a very dull - or prim - dog indeed not to find this a terrifically entertaining story. Neil McKenna has thrown himself into it with unfettered glee. If the opportunity arises to describe an anal fistula - and it does, frequently - he does not shirk it. [McKenna is] a sufficiently crisp, colourful and funny writer. Evening Standard A Fascinating slice of social history ... McKenna conjures the grubby glamour and camp excesses of Fanny and Stella's lives. He has a lot of fun with his subject while remaining sypathetic to those involved. Metro Wonderful ... This is a great read. It will be made into a movie as sure as Neil McKenna is the greatest gay biographer of our era. QX Magazine A most extraordinary tale through which author Neil McKenna paints a picture of a society that was a long, long way from the home life of our own dear Queen ... A fascinating reminder that Victorian society was nowhere near as respectable as it liked to believe. Sunday Express McKenna does a masterful job of recreating the lives of Fanny and Stella ... McKenna once again shows himself adept at meticulous research. He delivers a brilliant dissection of the plotting by authorities that led to the trial of Fanny and Stella. With his polished sense of narrative, McKenna's new book is a page-turner, rendered in felicitous, witty prose that makes the tragicomic lives of the two cross-dressers an unforgettable tale. In telling it, he provides a panoramic picture of a stratum of underworld queer English life in pre-Wilde days that is an important contribution to gay historiography ... This fascinating account richly merits a place on your bookshelf. Gay City News

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