by: Mary Hooper
Format: Hardcover, 309 pages
Published: February 1, 2011; Bloomsbury USA
Source: ARC from publisher
Challenge: YA Historical Fiction
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Synopsis (from Goodreads): 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
My Review: There is something about Victorian London that really perks up my bookish senses. With Fallen Grace, you get all the loveliness of Dickens without the awfully boring long-winded descriptions.
Grace is a girl after my own heart. She has just lost a baby, and is caring for her older, but mentally handicapped sister in a very cruel city, and yet she is not a whiner. She gets up and does what she has to in order for her survival.
One of my favorite things about novels written by Dickens is that every character plays a role in the story, no matter how minor. And Mary Hooper invokes this spirit nicely. I was interested in every plot twist and turn and definitely on the edge of my seat waiting to see how it would all turn out in the end.
The Unwins are fantastic villains in that they are very real. They exploit people at their most sensitive and broken moments and squeeze every last drop out of them. Which is why when they see an opportunity in Grace and her older sister, Lily, they seize on it, and so fully use them that I honestly thought that there was no way out.
I hope you'll pick up a copy of this book. It's got all the elements of a great story: orphans, London, fog, Dickens, and dastardly funeral directors. It's an impressive historical fiction that will appeal to adults, but is still accessible to younger readers.
If you missed it, also check out my interview with Mary Hooper. (link)