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Reviews of Pit of Shame

Pit of Shame by Anthony Stokes - book cover

‘Pit of Shame contains a wealth of interesting detail about everyday life in Reading gaol over 400 years … The author does not shy away from even the most disturbing aspects of his story. Pit of Shame will repay reading in many ways and its fascinating story, accessibly told, should stimulate the desire to know more about a neglected area of life.’
Brian Dempsey, SCOLAG.

‘This is a remarkable and compassionate book by a remarkable and compassionate man…This is a meticulous and insightful book, its appendices, illustrations and tables are informative and never, ever dull…Stokes has written the definitive history of Reading Gaol and he has underlined how little the rest of us know about what life can be like when the cell door slams. Oscar Wilde knew it. Stokes knows it from the other side but has the soul to make us stop and think. I recommend this book. Don’t flip through it, but read it with care. You will learn about Oscar Wilde, the 1916 internees and the very stones and smell of Reading Gaol will come to you. Once you pick it up, perhaps on a stopping train that goes through Reading, I am convinced you won’t put it down and that at the end you will feel humbled and uplifted. I was.’
Henry Kelly, Irish Times

‘The ballad is presented in this fascinating book with explanatory comments that give fresh insights into its meaning by Anthony Stokes, a sensitive senior prison officer who works in the prison today. The metaphor, “Pit of Shame”, is taken from the poem but despite its title the book is far more than an examination of Wilde’s work. It tells the history of the prison from early times including some of its most notorious and infamous prisoners such as Thomas Jennings, Amelia Dyer – the serial killer of babies – and Stacey Keach, the Hollywood actor…This book is a must for anyone interested in crime, punishment, prisons and English literature.’
John Hostettler, The Legal Executive

‘Stokes manages to integrate some very dramatic anecdotes into the general history, and even more interestingly, he develops some rare insights into prison experience….his analysis of the social history and political manoeuvres behind Wilde’s transfer to Reading contains new material on the whole subject, and I advise any Wilde scholars to read this book for that reason alone.’
Stephen Wade, Internet Law Book Reviews

‘Packed with little gems of fact…painting at times a horrific but nonetheless complete picture of life in the prison through the ages.’
Sol Malhotra, Inside Time

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