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The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey: A True Story of Sex, Crime and the Meaning of Justice

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'A gripping, unputdownable masterpiece of scholarly historical research and true crime writing.' Hallie Rubenhold, author of the Baillie Gifford prize-winning The Five 'Brilliantly summons up one girl's life, dreams and suffering. It's ingenious history writing' Mail on Sunday 'Extraordinary' Guardian 'Historical writing does not get any better than this ... Imaginative and c 'A gripping, unputdownable masterpiece of scholarly historical research and true crime writing.' Hallie Rubenhold, author of the Baillie Gifford prize-winning The Five 'Brilliantly summons up one girl's life, dreams and suffering. It's ingenious history writing' Mail on Sunday 'Extraordinary' Guardian 'Historical writing does not get any better than this ... Imaginative and compelling, impassioned and powerful, and deeply, deeply moving' Matt Houlbrook, author of Prince of Tricksters and Queer London Lydia Harvey was meant to disappear. She was young and working class; she'd walked the streets, worked in brothels, and had no money of her own. In 1910, politicians, pimps, policemen and moral reformers saw her as just one of many 'girls who disappeared'. But when she took the stand to give testimony at the trial of her traffickers, she ensured she'd never be forgotten. Historian Julia Laite traces Lydia's extraordinary life from her home in New Zealand to the streets of Buenos Aires and safe houses of London. She also reveals the lives of international traffickers Antonio Carvelli and his mysterious wife Marie, the policemen who tracked them down, the journalists who stoked the scandal, and Eilidh MacDougall, who made it her life's mission to help women who'd been abused and disbelieved. Together, they tell an immersive story of crime, travel and sexual exploitation, of lives long overlooked and forgotten by history, and of a world transforming into the 20th century.


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'A gripping, unputdownable masterpiece of scholarly historical research and true crime writing.' Hallie Rubenhold, author of the Baillie Gifford prize-winning The Five 'Brilliantly summons up one girl's life, dreams and suffering. It's ingenious history writing' Mail on Sunday 'Extraordinary' Guardian 'Historical writing does not get any better than this ... Imaginative and c 'A gripping, unputdownable masterpiece of scholarly historical research and true crime writing.' Hallie Rubenhold, author of the Baillie Gifford prize-winning The Five 'Brilliantly summons up one girl's life, dreams and suffering. It's ingenious history writing' Mail on Sunday 'Extraordinary' Guardian 'Historical writing does not get any better than this ... Imaginative and compelling, impassioned and powerful, and deeply, deeply moving' Matt Houlbrook, author of Prince of Tricksters and Queer London Lydia Harvey was meant to disappear. She was young and working class; she'd walked the streets, worked in brothels, and had no money of her own. In 1910, politicians, pimps, policemen and moral reformers saw her as just one of many 'girls who disappeared'. But when she took the stand to give testimony at the trial of her traffickers, she ensured she'd never be forgotten. Historian Julia Laite traces Lydia's extraordinary life from her home in New Zealand to the streets of Buenos Aires and safe houses of London. She also reveals the lives of international traffickers Antonio Carvelli and his mysterious wife Marie, the policemen who tracked them down, the journalists who stoked the scandal, and Eilidh MacDougall, who made it her life's mission to help women who'd been abused and disbelieved. Together, they tell an immersive story of crime, travel and sexual exploitation, of lives long overlooked and forgotten by history, and of a world transforming into the 20th century.

55 review for The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey: A True Story of Sex, Crime and the Meaning of Justice

  1. 5 out of 5

    Toni Kely-Brown

    I don’t usually like the use of “might have, possibly, likely, etc.” when reading historical non-fiction but I really enjoyed this. It was well-written and entertaining, and the extensive research the author undertook clearly shone through. I enjoyed the narrative style of focusing different chapters on a “player” in Lydia’s life, including the “pimp”, his wife, the Detective involved in the “white slave trade” narrative of the time (1910’s) and a woman who was helping young women on the streets I don’t usually like the use of “might have, possibly, likely, etc.” when reading historical non-fiction but I really enjoyed this. It was well-written and entertaining, and the extensive research the author undertook clearly shone through. I enjoyed the narrative style of focusing different chapters on a “player” in Lydia’s life, including the “pimp”, his wife, the Detective involved in the “white slave trade” narrative of the time (1910’s) and a woman who was helping young women on the streets. The author also uses Lydia Harvey’s story to demonstrate the drivers more broadly for women to work in the sex industry, particularly young women who worked under challenging conditions for very little pay such as domestic service. These women could be easily exploited or even choose a life of travel and luxury earning more in one week as a sex worker than they would have in a year in a "proper" job. She shows the hypocrisy of a time where society's morality condemned the sex industry (including pimps and traffickers) but at the same time didn’t provide a safety net for those young women living in poverty (it’s not much different today really!). The author also writes about the era's obsession with the ‘white slave trade’ particularly in the Antipodes and its myth of the of the innocent white young girl being lured into the sex trade in South America and England, when at the same time having no regard for women of colour. I guess its similar to today when the media covers murder victims – if she is white, innocent and attacked outside the home the headlines are everywhere but if she is a sex worker or a women of colour there is little outrage.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily Bruce

    This was a really interesting and well written book! I read it all in one day

  3. 5 out of 5

    Heather Wilson

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    David

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    Phil Spencer

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    Sonia Weir

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    Helen Heaton

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    Sara Marsden

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    Katie Cormack

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    Philip Bagley

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    Hannah Cook

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    Stephen Bagley

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    Jane May Morrison

  54. 5 out of 5

    Kaia Landelius

  55. 5 out of 5

    Adam

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