Author: Mary Hooper
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Publication Date: 7th June 2010
From AmazonGrace 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.
By now, you will probably already know that Fallen Grace is set in old Victorian London. Which is history. Literally. I don't do history. But this book intrigued me, it really did. And I read it, all of it, and found that not all historical novels are bad. It's not really the 'story' that I don't like, it's usually because stuff like dates, deaths, famous people (in the olden days) just doesn't stay in my head, and I find it hard to enjoy the story if I don't even understand half of it.
This novel is about two sisters, who's lives haven't been exactly the best to them. Grace Parkes, the younger of the two sisters is struggling. Looking after her older sister (Lily) isn't easy for her, and having just give birth to an illegitimate child, who has unfortunately died ahead of birth, Grace is strained to bury the treasured baby she never had.
Grace makes her way to legendary Brookwood Cemetery and carefully slips her baby into the casket of a wealthy woman; she couldn't bear the thought of her precious child being buried in a beggar's grave. This one action beckons a whole sequence of events which transforms her life and entwines it with those of the exact, rich lawyer who had buried his sister and a detestable family content on finding their fortune in a lost, young woman.
Poor Grace has been through so much, having to sell watercress on the streets to survive, as well as looking after Lily, who's not capable of looking after herself. She was smart, admirable, and quite fierce at times. Lily was a sweet girl, the fact that she relied on Grace (a lot) made her sound so vulnerable, though you wouldn't even guess it; her naivety was just moving, surrounded within the cruel and dangerous streets of London in the Victorian Era.
Although I've heard of Mary Hooper before, this is the first book of hers that I've read. And I don't think I would've picked this up if I hadn't recieved a copy for review- or actually, maybe I would, the cover is just so beautiful! It's so simple, but so effective - I love the feel to it, the colours are really warm, the font is perfect, and the black design around the outside just puts the icing on the cake! I think that's Grace on the cover, I love her hair! I have a thing for red/ginger hair and that is just one of the most gorgeous shades I've ever seen!
The book is a stunning portrayal of life in Victorian London, with its vivid and accurate descriptions, from the tragic poverty issues, to the valuable extravagance enjoyed by the well-off. The unusual link to the Mourning (funeral) industry with the Unwin's was something really different, it gave the book that sinister, edgy mood.
There are some difficult themes introduced, such as rape and abuse, although it is written as something in the past (before the book began), therefore no graphic detail is given. Hooper has the ability to create a novel of great beauty, with characters who are remarkable, and villians who are cruel and self-centred. Characters that push us through a storm of feelings and really help us to connect with the novel and the astounding tale that is told. I really enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to everyone.
Huge thanks to the awesome people at Bloomsbury for encouraging me to read such an amazing variety of authors, if it wasn't for you, I'd still be stuck reading Jacqueline Wilson (no offence to her, she's still fabulous, but that's ALL I used to read!)
Overall, Fallen Grace is a thrilling novel; a wonderful historical swarming with twists and turns, and dark secrets that are threatening to unleash themselves...