The Lives of Diamond Bessie – Jody Hadlock

Published By: SparkPress
Pages: 328
Released On: 05/04/2022

Pregnant out of wedlock, sixteen-year-old Annie Moore is sent to live at a convent for fallen women. When the nuns take her baby, Annie escapes, determined to find a way to be reunited with her daughter. But few rights or opportunities are available to a woman in the 1860s, and after failing to find a respectable job, Annie resorts to prostitution in order to survive.

As a highly sought after demi-mondaine, Annie – now Bessie – garners many expensive gifts from her admirers, and eventually meets and marries the son of a wealthy jeweller. With her marriage, she believes her dream of returning to proper society has finally come true. She’s proven wrong when she suffers the ultimate betrayal at the hands of the man she thought would be her salvation. But Bessie doesn’t let her story end there.

Inspired by a true story and set amid the burgeoning women’s rights movement, The Lives of Diamond Bessie is a haunting tale of betrayal and redemption that explores whether seeking revenge is worth the price you might pay.

*****

*Contains spoilers*

Thanks to SparkPress for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

This flowed so easily; with some books, I’m frequently checking to see how much I’ve read and how much is left, but this read so well that before I knew it, I was almost halfway through. And what started as a mid-19th Century story about family, friends, lovers – both voluntary and involuntary – and above all, hitting rock bottom and rising up, turned a 180 into something sinister and otherworldly, and it was the last thing I expected from this tale. Maybe I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. It is genre- and mind-bending, incomparable to anything else I’ve read.

This could easily have flitted between narrators and viewpoints, but sticking solely with Bessie was, in my view, the strongest writing choice. It is definitely a book of two halves, both entertaining in their own way, connected through the topsy-turvy twists.

The amount of research required is immense, and it is so well done it feels like you’re reading a real biography, rather than a fictionalised adaptation of a poor woman’s life, and death.

It doesn’t sound plausible that this could be based on a true story, but I think that’s what makes it all the more extraordinary. A great debut book and I devoured it within a day.

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