The Hartlepool Monkey

Written by Sean Longley
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

The legend of the Hartlepool Monkey is well known in the North East of England in that in the early 19th century, during the Napoleonic Wars a monkey, dressed in French naval uniform, is washed up on the beach at Hartlepool and is taken for a French spy. Sean Longley’s novel is wrapped around this legend and the circumstances that lead to the animal being on that particular beach.

Dr Simon Legris is a French physician living in Paris when he is caught up in the aftermath of a carriage accident and as a result becomes personal physician to the Duc Ladurie de Bretagne. He is sent on an expedition to Africa and returns with a pet monkey whom he names Jacques. Back in Paris the French Revolution breaks out and Jacques becomes involved in a plot involving Claudette, a prostitute whom Simon knew well in his early days in the city.

Set during the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution, the tale is well told with a style of writing fitting the era in which the events happened.