Sunday, 25 July 2010

Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper

June 2010, Bloomsbury
320 pages, Hardback
Review copy

Young Adult, Historical

Cushions: 4
Daggers: 1
Paperclips: 1-2 (infrequent)
Smiles: 5
Tissues: 5
Nayuleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Summary from Bloomsbury

Grace Parkes has just had to do a terrible thing. Having given birth to an illegitimate child, she has travelled to the famed Brookwood Cemetery to place her small infant’s body in a rich lady’s coffin. Following the advice of a kindly midwife, this is the only way that Grace can think of to give something at least to the little baby who died at birth, and to avoid the ignominy of a pauper’s grave.

Distraught and weeping, Grace meets two people at the cemetery: Mrs Emmeline Unwin and Mr James Solent. These two characters will have a profound affect upon Grace’s life. But Grace doesn’t know that yet. For now, she has to suppress her grief and get on with the business of living: scraping together enough pennies selling watercress for rent and food; looking after her older sister, who is incapable of caring for herself; thwarting the manipulative and conscience-free Unwin family, who are as capable of running a lucrative funeral business as they are of defrauding a young woman of her fortune.

A stunning evocation of life in Victorian London, with vivid and accurate depictions, ranging from the deprivation that the truly poor suffered to the unthinking luxuries enjoyed by the rich: all bound up with a pacy and thrilling plot, as Grace races to unravel the fraud about to be perpetrated against her and her sister.

Watch the trailer here.

For those like me who cry over a book, you'll need a tissue. And lots of chocolate. I think the cover depicts what the novel is about. Grace is ashamed of what happened, even though it wasn't her fault.  What Grace has to do isn't fair. No mother should have to sneak their child into a grave. Equally Grace should never have had to get pregnant in the first place, but life for girls like Grace back in Victorian England wasn't kind. People didn't listen to girls who sold cress to make ends meet. They didn't like to look at her sister,Lily.

The story follows Grace and Lily as their lives go downhill, they fall into ruin then get 'saved' and enjoy the life of a rich person. Although that life is heavily tainted by deceit and lies. The sisters are incredibly close. Grace has a huge responsibility in looking after herself and Lily, because Lily isn't like other people. Lily always tries to do the right thing, and Grace finds it a bit difficult not to get mad when Lily's actions bring about small disasters. Grace takes up every chance that life gives her, in an attempt to keep them both alive, and in a life that is worth living.

I was gripped by Grace and Lily's journey. It was both horrifying and interesting to watch as other people - criminals - took advantage of the pair of them. Grace was never broken. I think that without Lily, Grace might have stumbled and not bothered to get up again. She's highly intelligent, and thinks options through before opting for one of them.

The people who scheme against Grace and Lily are truly evil. Not only are they evil, they are selfish, arrogant, money orientated and without a kind bone in their body. Those they work with have varying degrees of criminality, which actually helps Grace and Lily at the end. So when things look bleak for them, don't despair, all gets set right in the end.

The story twists for Grace and Lily were a delight to read - and also horrible because even when certain truths were revealed, I had to wait right until the end of the book for Grace and Lily to know the truth. I teared up a lot while reading this, and needed a fair few tissues. There is some humour throughout the book - especially in the last chapter when I was laughing away at one plot twist. I wanted to re-read the book straight away just so I could think about Grace knowing that plot thread.

I think in historical novels it is a good sign when I can almost feel every breath the characters take. Visualisation, describing the world and people around them is very important. Mary Hooper carries this off well - it shows just how thoroughly she has conducted her research. I like the chapter at the end which provides historical facts about the book.

You can read the first chapter of Fallen Grace here.

Check out Mary Hooper's site.

Make sure you try another of Mary Hooper's books, The Betrayal 


Rhiana said...

I really liked this one too.. I thought the setting was really unusual and creepy and very atmospheric. I may have shed a tear or two also.

Clover said...

Sounds like an emotional one, one I might like to read :) Thanks for the review.

Nayuleska said...

Yes, tissues are needed! I did get really angry at the people who hurt Grace. Grrr!