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The Smart is a fascinating study of a notorious web of sexuality and conspiracy in which the "celebrated Mrs. Rudd" and the "unfortunate Perreau brothers"--identical twins with very different characters--take centre stage. Bakewell, a curator of early printed books in the medical history collection at the Wellcome Library, mines her sources with care. Old Bailey transcripts, James Boswell's diaries, pamphlets--both satirical and polemical--newspaper reports, the London Magazine: Bakewell is "hooked" by this strange, and much disputed, case. And she hooks her readers with a story told from different, often conflicting, points of view as her characters battle for their lives against the penal and legal systems of 18th-century London. A vivid portrait of that London is one of the great pleasures of this book, which tracks its protagonists through the city streets, its banks and its brothels. But, above all, The Smart is an exploration of a woman's life--its limits and potential tested, over and over again, by the extraordinary character of Caroline Rudd. "There is no getting away from the fact," Bakewell concludes, "that the fully fledged Caroline became a bad woman--or at least a dangerous one to know." Nevertheless, this is a book driven by sympathy for her--as well as the desire to untangle the enigma of her famous, sometimes fatal, attractions. --Vicky Lebeau [via]