The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf
(Chatto & Windus, 2013)

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones

by Jack Wolf

Set in the mid-18th century, The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones is the story of a young man, Tristan Hunt who, at the age of 20, goes up to London to study anatomy and surgery at St Thomas’s. Since childhood, Tristan has been subject to sudden, explosive episodes of extreme violence. Considered a genius and a physician of extraordinary promise, he is also, alas, psychotic. Torn between the body (his uncontrollable lust for causing pain) and the mind (his insatiable intellectual curiosity) Tristan’s struggle for self-control mirrors and personifies the contradictions of the Enlightenment, and the emergence of reason as the absolute standard.

A lost, motherless boy, a sadistic monster, a philosopher, fantasist, visionary, Tristan’s story is funny, moving and frightening. With touches of both Patrick Suskind’s Perfume and Brett Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones will never be forgotten by those who dare to read it.


There is no doubting the talent, I might even say brilliance, of the author, Jack Wolf … I simply cannot imagine whence came the idea for such a beautifully bizarre story … The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones is a deeply original and startling read.”
- SJ Bolton
A startlingly, subversively original writer. ”
- Gerard Woodward
Wolf's sure hand with Hart's voice and intelligent control of material including medical history and strange folk law results in a thrilling tale of transgression. ”
- The Metro
Wolf is a superb storyteller who sucks the reader into his fascinating imagination. ”
- The Times
Quite startlingly, and beautifully, bloody… There is no escaping the fact that this is a vicious, extreme book. But it was a vicious, extreme time; there is great beauty in many of these scenes, and great humanity as well… Jack Wolf delivers his tale with passion, precision and poetry. Those of strong stomach and vivid imagination will find glittering delights in here.”
- Lloyd Shepherd, The Guardian
Tristan among the most striking and memorable anti-heroes to have appeared in recent British fiction. ”
- Jonathan Barnes, TLS
This moving tale of metamorphosis and blurred identity, otherness and liminality, with its insights into male and female sexual drives and power exchanges, surely derives considerable force from the author’s own experiences. It is also more than an exploration of self. This is an extraordinarily controlled and artful book. ”
- The Financial Times