Review: The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones

I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody BonesThe Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf
Published by Penguin on March 26, 2013
Genres: Gothic, Historical, Horror
Pages: 560
Format: Paperback
Source: TLC Book Tours

An explosive and daring debut novel set during the Enlightenment that tells the tale of a promising young surgeon-in-training whose study of anatomy is deeply complicated by his uncontrollable sadistic tendencies.

Meet Tristan Hart, a brilliant young man of means. The year is 1751, and Mr Hart leaves his Berkshire home for London to lodge with his father's friend, the novelist and dramatist Henry Fielding, and study medicine at the great hospital of University College. It will be a momentous year for the cultured and intellectually ambitious Mr Hart, who, as well as being a student of Locke and Descartes and a promising young physician, is also, alas, a psychopath. His obsession is the nature of pain, and preventing it during medical procedures. His equally strong and far more unpredictable obsession is the nature of pain, and causing it. Desperate to understand his own deviant desires before they derail his career and drive him mad, Tristan sifts through his childhood memories, memories that are informed by dark superstitions about faeries and goblins and shape-shifting gypsies. Will the new tools of the age-reason and science and scepticism-be enough to save him?

Unexpectedly funny, profoundly imaginative, and with a strange love story at its heart, The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones is a novel about the Enlightenment, the relationship between the mind and body, sex, madness, the nature of pain, and the existence of God.

First Sentence: “One morning in the Autumn of seventeen forty-one, when I was not yet eleven Yeares of Age, still round in Figure and innocent in Mind, Nathaniel Ravenscroft took me a-walking by the River.”

Do not be lured in by the Cover of The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones to expecting a Novel packed with Action and Magic. It is nothing of the Sort. Instead, Raw Head, as I shall henceforth refer to this Book for brevity’s sake, is a slow-moving, pretentious Tale of Psychosis, Pedophilia, and Sado-masochism. While I cannot necessarily say that this is a bad Book, I can say that it is an acquired Taste, one I have no interest in ever personally acquiring.

You may perhaps be wondering at my newly discovered Love of Capitalization. I do this to prepare you for the Experience of perusing Wolf’s Novel. Every single Noun within these Pages is capitalized. Wolf presumably does so to emulate the Style of classic Works, which would capitalize particular Nouns, or perhaps to hint at foreign Origins, as I know German does this. However, I found this Style entirely off-putting. In English, capitalizing Nouns in the middle of Sentences is not the done Thing, so my Brain kept trying to place additional Emphasis on those Words, resulting in a stilted Reading. The Capitalization forced me to skim most of Raw Head, as that way I was less bothered by the errant capital Letters. Either the Reader will find this unique Touch endearing or eminently frustrating.

Speaking of frustrating, let us discuss the Plot! Raw Head opens with a young Tristan Hart. He does not begin as a promising Youth, and lives in the Shadow of Nathaniel Ravenscroft. He admires Nathaniel and does whatever Nathaniel does. He becomes rather obsessed with Nathaniel much in the way that Sal Paradise wishes he could be like Dean Moriarty in On the Road. Then Nathaniel disappears for most of the Novel, but, don’t worry, he will be back, sort of like Outbreaks of a venereal Disease.

Certainly the book could have been thinner.

As Tristan grows older, he discovers Passions, the first for Science and the second for causing Pain. His primary Hobby is that of performing Autopsies on any dead Animals that can be found. He saves the Bones as a Collection. A short way into his sexual Education, he begins to find that he is turned on by the Pain of Others, and tries to abuse a gypsy Woman who was going to willingly have sex with him. She curses him.

Of course, he blames his Madness on this curse, but, really, he’s just psychotic. He has Spells of a Time where a Story comes to life around him, and he believes them to be True. Only later, when Others tell him of his Foolishness does he know these Happenings never occurred. During the time of his Madness taking hold, he is studying Medicine. I love to think about Sadists practicing Medicine, don’t you? He also visits a whore House and whips the Whore kept for the Sadists.

If you thought that was bad, get ready. At this Point, the Novel adds another Element: a Romance. Yes, Tristan, psychotic Sadist, deserves a love Interest. Who does he fall in love with and marry?, you may ask. I shall tell you. He meets her when he is twenty Yeares of Age, and she is a very immature, young teen. Yes, that’s right. Here’s the Pedophilia I warned you about. Conveniently, Katherine is a little Slut and quite taken with Tristan. Also, surprise bonus, she is a Cutter and loves Pain. A Match made in the Heavens, truly.

Worst of all, they do not come to an unhappy End. Instead, they raise two Children, which simply gives me the Shivers. What was the Point of this Novel? Is there a Lesson I should have learned from this? Is it that sadistic, psychotic Murderers make wonderful family Men? That’s all I’m seeing.

None of this interests me, especially due to the overblown Style with which Wolf told the Tale. However, if you like old-fashioned Language and Spellings, and also always wanted to know what it would be like if Patrick Bateman and Humbert Humbert were combined into a historical Character, then this has been written just for you.

Favorite Quote:

“‘Fuck off, Ann.'”

25 responses to “Review: The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones”

  1. Patrick Bateman and Humbert Humbert? Charming. Think I’ll pass.

  2. David Allan says:

    Yikes….This sounded like it could possibly be good. Not anymore though 0.0 thanks for the heads up.

  3. Oh wow. Wow wow wow. I am so happy that I put this book down when I had picked it up. This sounds like it was maybe going for the shock factor but it got so caught up in that that it forgot to bring forth some actual meaning? Ugh, I am so surprised that you were able to make it through this but because of that we got this review and all of the American Pyscho gif’s definitely make it worth it in my eyes!

  4. Kelly says:

    As I read your review, I was doing the same thing you said you did while reading this book, placing extra emphasis on the capitalized words! It was so stilted but I couldn’t make my brain stop! I think I need a nap now.

    Also, no. No thank you, to anything that this book does.

  5. Amy says:

    OMG I was totally reading your review with extra emphasis on the capitalized words. I couldn’t imagine trying to read a whole book like that! And it doesn’t sound like a book I would enjoy at all. Thanks for sticking it out for all of the unsuspecting readers.

  6. I am so glad that I’d already read a review pointing out the Old English style on this one. It’s not something I have an easy time muddling through and so I knew this one definitely wouldn’t be for me. I don’t know that I could have handled it as long as you apparently did!

    • Christina says:

      Grit my teeth and bear it is basically how I got through. I love classics, but writing that way just for shits and giggles was not something I was a fan of. Sigh.

  7. GillyB says:

    Basically I was reading your POST like this with extra EMPHASIS on the NOUNS and it lead me to believe that reading this useless and creepy BOOK would be the most annoying EXPERIENCE and I should definitely not read this BOOK. Also, a happily ever after for an eighteenth century Patrick Bateman. NO. THRICE NO.

    • Christina says:

      Seriously. This book was a 2 (just not for me) until I got to that part where he basically settles down to be a family man with no repercussions for having committed murder or anything and I’m just like FUCK NO. That pushed the rage button.

  8. Oh my god, this sounds awful! And I could not deal with the capitalized nouns; they would throw me off completely and I’d keep adding emphasis where there was none. And omfg Patrick Bateman and Humbert Humbert would be a BADASS combination is written the right way. This? Not the right way.

    • I should amend this. Not badass as in cool, but badass and in a scary as fuck horror villain.

    • Christina says:

      If this hadn’t turned into some happy S&M romance story, it could have been very badass, I agree. Up until that tone change and the HEA, I was just going to give this a 2, since it’s perfectly fine if you like that writing style. However, that pissed me off, so you get one star, book.

  9. Soma Rostam says:

    Well, this is sooooo disappointing. I am so definitely not going to read this one, so psychotic. And the style of the Capitalized Letters is plain annoying. Every Noun? Come on.
    GREAT honest review, though
    your reader,

  10. Faye M. says:

    This books sounds like a living nightmare. If all nouns in the book are all capitalized, I’d go crazy. No joke, my brain kept briefly pausing at the capitalized nouns. Thanks to your emulating the style of the book, I’ve had a sample of what the novel will provide, and honestly, I don’t think I’d want any of it. :S

    Faye @ The Social Potato

  11. Stephanie says:

    I kind of do want to know what Patrick Bateman and Humbert Humbert would be like combined… *hides* I might try it on audiobook so the capitalization won’t be an issue, although I think I could actually get used to it.

  12. Megan K. says:

    Oh, Lord. I was actually kind of intrigued by this one mainly because of its title. Thanks for that – er – great experience into the writing style of the novel!


    I don’t think I’d be able to get past a page of that shit. And with such a sick main character, I think I’d hate the book more than you did. Bleh. Thanks for the honest and informative review. Definitely steering away from this now.

  13. Molli Moran says:

    Oh. My.

    Well then. I have this one on my TBR and I figured it was going to be an extremely dark story but the 12 year old love interest skeeves me out. The other stuff, or most of it, seemed to be hinted at in the synopsis, but this one still sounds disturbing. Hmm. It’s definitely not one I’d buy, but it might be a library read. But the writing style and the capital letters would piss me off, I think.

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

  14. Renae M. says:

    Incoherent Renae, back for round two. So basically this review gave me massive lulz. LOVED your wonky capitalization. I’ve heard absolutely nothing good about this book, but every time I’m at the bookstore I want to buy it. I probably won’t, but it’s such an interesting cover. T_T

  15. LOL all the GIFs. LOL.

    I was just reading this and thinking, I wish boring books had GIFs in them, like you turn the page and there is a GIF. Maybe that could be the wave of the future with ebooks.


    And that capitalization would drive me batshit.

    Also, I like that cover.

  16. Kayla Beck says:

    I can see why you didn’t like this book. I’m still out as to whether or not I did. I think there were parts that interested me. *ponders* Honestly, I’ve all but forgotten the damn thing. This was also supposed to be mine and Will’s first joint review, but the turd jumped ship on me before he hit Chapter 3. :-/

  17. heathertlc says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

  18. Dana says:

    “In English, capitalizing Nouns in the middle of Sentences is not the done Thing, so my Brain kept trying to place additional Emphasis on those Words, resulting in a stilted Reading.” This! I was totally doing this while reading your review. Every capitalized word I put emphasis on. Oh my, I couldn’t read this book…it would take me forever. Especially at over 500 pages! Yikes.

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