The Butcher's Daughter

The Butcher's Daughter
Victoria Glendinning
Price: £
  • Hardback
17 May 2018
  • Historical Fiction
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My name is Agnes Peppin and I am a stranger here... 

In this stirring, critically acclaimed and affecting novel, award-winning author Victoria Glendinning intricately depicts the lives of women during the Tudor era. The Butcher's Daughter is the atmospheric story of a young woman's struggle to define herself in a world of uncertainty, intrigue, and danger.

It is 1535 and Agnes Peppin, daughter of a West-country butcher, leaves her family home in disgrace to live out the rest of her life cloistered behind the walls of the Shaftesbury Abbey. Blessed with a sharp mind, she quickly rises through the ranks of the sisterhood to become the Abbess's assistant. While Agnes grapples with the complex rules and hierarchies of her new world, King Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Head of the Church of England. Religious houses are being formally subjugated, monasteries dissolved, and the great Abbey is no exception to the purge. 

With her place of refuge razed and the sisterhood disbanded, she is free at last to be the master of her own fate. But freedom comes at a price as Agnes descends into a world she knows little about, using her wits and testing her moral convictions against her need to survive by any means necessary...


‘Glendinning writes with a vivid immediacy about a fascinating, dark moment in our island story… a refreshing and original tale [about] the underside of Henry’s religious Reformation’ The Times

'Marvellous.... heartbreaking and unforgettable... a by times humorous, by times tragic but always compelling picaresque tale' The Irish Times

‘A brave girl, a powerful tale, a world on the brink of change – and how the past leaps into life!’ Fay Weldon

‘A powerful and very immediate picture of another age. It is full of violence and loss, and yet it is also a testament to survival, courage, pity, and the eternal beauty to be found in small things’ Anne Perry

‘Glendinning’s research convincingly depicts the bustling and frequently ruthless world of Henry VIII’s England’ Library Journal

‘A touching, vivid and sometimes deeply shocking depiction of the lives of ordinary people whose world was shattered by Henry VIII’s policy to dissolve England’s monasteries. A must for anyone interested in the Tudor period' Elizabeth Fremantle, author of Queen’s Gambit (The Tudor Trilogy)

‘An elegant, beautifully written ode to the resilience of the human spirit, and a poignant meditation on time and change. As lucent and intricately-detailed as a stained glass window’ Carol McGrath, author of The Daughters of Hastings Trilogy

‘An absorbing tale that vividly brings to life the West Country in the age of the Tudors. Highly recommended’ Helen Hollick, author of A Hollow Crown

‘I loved this book from the very first page, for the poised lyricism of the writing and for the fascination of the story. Agnes Peppin, the butcher’s daughter, is an enchanting witness to turbulent times, and the cataclysmic events that shape her life become newly urgent and thrilling as seen through her eyes. This is a wonderful novel – sometimes tragic, sometimes redemptive, always thoughtful and wise’ Margaret Leroy, author of The English Girl

‘An absolute pleasure… assured, quietly gripping, surprising and educative, with a terrific central character, it pins down the precarious nature of life in 16th-century England’ Daily Mail

‘Every student of Tudor England is aware of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries and how devastating it was to a society so deeply steeped in Catholicism. But even as an author writing in the period I’d never given any thought to the individuals most deeply and personally affected by this event, which was a tragedy to so many. Victoria Glendinning writes of the nuns of Shaftesbury Abbey with such authenticity of detail, and a lilt and cadence of dialogue so unique that this reader was quickly lost in the young protagonist’s dramas, both great and small … A worthy read’ Robin Maxwell, bestselling author of Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn and The Wild Irish

‘A beguiling, affecting tale of dissolution and redemption set in a changing – and beautifully wrought – Tudor landscape. Gloriously authentic and refreshingly unromantic, this one got under my skin’ Jessie Child, historian and award-winning author of Henry VIII’s Last Victim and God’s Traitors

‘An immersive, engrossing, and epic journey of a woman’s soul, finely researched and beautifully written’ Margaret George, author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I

‘Absorbing and evocative… Glendinning finds the extraordinary in ordinary lives and has brought a turbulent period into vivid, colourful life’ Donna Douglas, author of the Nightingale Girls series

‘An intriguing tale that captures the tumult of the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the essence of life in sixteenth century England masterfully. Evocative, thought-provoking and poignant’ Nicola Tallis, author of Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey

‘Carries the reader full tilt into history so close to the heart and thought of the butcher’s daughter and her gradual awakening into a new world… in the end it is less about history than about being a woman’ John Spurling, author of The Ten Thousand Things, winner of the 2015 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction

‘Through the experiences of Agnes and others, Glendinning thoughtfully explores womanhood’s many facets’ Booklist

'What happens when the life we have known is being dismantled around us? Agnes Peppin’s story, intersecting with that of historical figures of the turbulent English sixteenth century, is insightful, moving, at times reekingly earthy… It resonates with the question of our own age, of every age: who controls the country’s wealth – and who decides?' Annie Murray

‘I loved this book, I think it offers something new to the genre… it was interesting seeing the great matters of the royal court as inconsequential and having little bearing on the day-to-day lives of the country, fiction rarely shows us normalcy and it is a breath of fresh air’ The Book Bag

‘A compelling volume that packs a might punch… Glendinning's research is exhaustive… A fine novel’ Discovering Diamonds

Victoria Glendinning

About Victoria Glendinning

Victoria Glendinning is a British biographer, critic, broadcaster and novelist. Born in Sheffield and educated at Oxford where she studied modern languages, she later worked for The Time Literary Supplement. She is an Honorary Vice-President of English PEN, winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, was appointed a CBE in 1998, is the twice winner of the Whitbread Biography award and is the Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature. A regular contributor of articles and reviews to various UK newspapers and magazines, she is also the author of three widely acclaimed novels: The Grown-Ups, Electricity and Flight.