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Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile

By Alice Jolly

Fiction | History
105% funded
131 supporters

Publication date: June 2018

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The year is 1887. In a decaying country house Mary Ann Sate, an elderly maid servant, nurses Mr Cottrell, a man she knew well in her youth. Mr Cottrell does not have long to live and so asks Mary Ann to write down the story of his brother, Ned, who fought for The People’s Charter and for improved wages in the textile mills of the Stroud Valleys.

But as soon as Mary Ann begins to write, anger takes control of her pen. Which story should she write? Maybe it is time for the truth about the Cottrell brothers to be told. As Mary Ann unravels the knots of the past, she comes to see how her love for the brothers destroyed the life she might have had.

Should she now avenge the dead? Or can the mere power of her faltering pen enable her to reclaim her own truth?

Once the initial subscription has been raised then Alice's share of the profits (50% of every book sold) will go to Emmaus - a charity who support homeless people in Gloucestershire and are part of a federation of 350 organisations in 37 countries around the world.

The Emmaus website is here.


Quick select rewards

$40  + shipping
68 pledges


A beautiful limited edition hardback with four colour endpapers, embossed frontboard and spine and ribbon.
Buy now
45 pledges


Ebook edition
Buy now
  • Alice Jolly avatar

    Alice Jolly

    Alice Jolly is a novelist, playwright and teacher of creative writing. Her memoir (‘Dead Babies and Seaside Towns’) was published by Unbound in 2015 and won the Pen / Ackerley Prize. In 2014 she was awarded the V.S.Prichett Memorial Prize by the Royal Society of Literature for one of her short stories (‘Ray The Rottweiler’). Her two earlier novels (‘What The Eye Doesn’t See’ and ‘If Only You Knew’) are both published by Simon and Schuster. Her articles have been published in The Guardian, The Mail on Sunday and The Independent and she has broadcast for Radio 4. Three of her plays have been professionally produced by The Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. Two of these plays were funded by The Arts Council. She teaches for The Arvon Foundation and on the Oxford University Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. She has lived in Warsaw and in Brussels. Her home is now in Stroud in Gloucestershire and she is married to lawyer, Stephen Kinsella.

  • If you tell a story oft enough
    So it become true

    Words like the twisting grain of wood
    Or the course of a slow running river
    Have ways they must evr go

    Who might I be to wield the axe cross the grain
    Or try to untwist the flow of water

    Yet I take up this my pen
    To set down here my story
    Bone blood brain

    What does a soul look like
    If you write him on paper
    Yes soil also how may he be held
    Within this fragile mesh of words

    Yet so tis certain
    Soil hisself must find his tongue
    My story being but one speck of grit
    In the swelling ballad of these valleys

    Oh how I do love to see them once again
    The light brush cross their emerald edges
    As the sun bloom and wither day on day

    Soil soul and sin too
    Soon all one
    The hours hurry at my shoulder
    The words will not wait

    Yea these valleys were my beginning
    I come here first on the black ridge of the night
    A coach tumbling falling many clattering mile
    I know nothing afore

    I sit on the back next a basket of chickens
    The coach roll and pitch stars unspool behind me
    Through a banner of black

    The coach cut through all
    Chickens screaming feathers poking out
    Through the thick twist basket weave
    My hand numb as I grip tight head nodding

    Not a house a tree a man a beast or a devil
    Only the road
    Slap of the horses hooves creak of a wheel
    Tear and drag of a wind
    Tips and tussles distant trees
    Til sudden the coach falls forward into Stillness

  • 30th October 2020 Mary Ann Sate audio book at Stroud Book Festival

    Dear All, 

    Just to let you know that Red Dog Theatre Company in Stroud are in the process of making an audio book out of Mary Ann Sate. You can hear some of this work at Stroud Book Festival. This year the Book Festival is all online and it is free. You just get onto the website below and sign up for the You Tube channel. A short section of the book will be available every evening starting at the…

    20th May 2019 Exciting evening ahead ......

    Dear All,

    Apologies to all who have already received this news (two seperate e-mail lists which overlap).

    This evening I am off to the prize giving for the £30,000 Rathbones Folio Prize.  Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile (which is your book as much as mine) is up for the prize.  

    This is a huge moment for Unbound and for me.  There has always been a question mark about whether crowd funding 'works…

    14th May 2018 Book launches - London and Stroud

    Dear All, 

    Apologies to those receiving this for the second time!  What that means is that you very generously subscribed to two of my books.  And for that I am extremely grateful.

    Anyway, here are the details of the book launch in London and in Stroud.  

    Please do let me know if you can make it (to either or both) as I need to keep a count of numbers.

    Many thanks agian and look forward…

    12th March 2018 Book launch - save the date!

    Dear All,

    This is just to let you know that the book launch for Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile will take place on Wednesday, 20th June between 6.30 and 8.00 at Daunts Book in Marylebone.  A proper invitation will go out closer to the event but do please save the date.

    This launch event will also be the launch of the subscribers copies of Between The Regions of Kindness - but that book will not go out…

    12th January 2018 Mary Ann Sate - up to 30% - thanks to you all!

    Dear Friends,


    Many thanks to you all for pledging for Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile.  The text of the book is now pretty much finished and I'm very pleased with how it looks - and very excited about the book overall.


    There has been a lot of interest in the book already from all sorts of different people.  So I'm following up on every publicity opportunity.  


    The plan is for the…

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