Fanny & Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Britain by Neil McKenna, hardback by Faber and Faber, £16.99 (ebook £9.94).

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NEIL McKenna, award-winning journalist and author of the acclaimed biography The Secret Life Of Oscar Wilde, recreates the tale of the tumultuous lives of Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton; also known as Fanny and Stella.

McKenna tells of the story of these two infamous “He-She Ladies” and their cohorts whose rouged cheeks, flamboyant dresses, wildly camp behaviour and “abnormal” sexual antics had the Victorian press and public captivated.

Their social and sexual transgressions were put under the microscope of very public and sensationalist trials that nearly cost them their lives, at a time when “buggery”, only a handful of years earlier, was a crime punishable by death.

McKenna’s book is massively entertaining with the necessary double entendres, lascivious and perhaps excessive narrative to keep us happy, as he brings back to life this extraordinary tragicomic expose of the back streets of 19th century London.

Natsayi Sithole