Tuesday, 6 July 2010
Having read all of Mary Hooper’s other brilliant historical books before, she had a high expectation to live up to and I wasn’t disappointed at all. I found Fallen Grace beautifully compelling with a twisting plot and vivid characters: hard working Grace, the deceiving Unwins (funeral directors) and a kindly young man, Mr James Solent that all brought the book to life. Infact, I thought that it slightly surpassed her other books and shows just how much she has progressed in her writing since she was writing her modern teenage fiction series about a young girl called Megan.
Characters (main and favourites):
I loved the heroine Grace who was vulnerable and tragic enough for the story and the poor living that she and her older sister Lily make but also had a strong will and loyal spirit that clung onto hope even in times when the sisters had barely a penny to rub together. Through all the things that she has to bear, from making sure there is food to eat and money to pay the rent with day to day to dealing with an unwanted pregnancy and the death of the baby, she is a very resilient girl. I think that this was a nice balance as the story of the two originally wellborn girls who dropped into destitution and into the world of severe poverty and hunger in London’s notorious Seven Dial slums could easily have turned into an unbearably sad tale.
Also, she is not like the typical girl who is verging on destitution, as she is well mannered to the people she meets and tries to keep the values that her mother taught her as a small girl before she died. Another thing -which I liked- that Grace tries to keep remnants of their past life such as a pretty hand decorated tea cup, which is worth a good deal of money but she refuses to pawn unless there is no other option.
Another main character is Lily, Grace’s childlike older sister who is unable to care for herself. She was adorable and always tried her best to please Grace and loved having stories told to her at night. Their bond together really made me care about them and as the events in the story (I won’t give any away!) began to unfold, it was impossible to read fast enough to know what happened to them.
Wonderful historical detail:
Mary Hooper’s detailed descriptions of life for the poor in Victorian times and the dangers for young girls on the streets must have taken a lot of research. It was this that outshined her other books, and really made a dramatic atmosphere. I know a lot about the Victorian era, having been interested in it since I visited Osborne House (her holiday home) when I was very little and I thought that the story transported me back to that time really well. Some teenage girls who read this may not know much about life was like for Victorian London’s poor and the way that many people lived in constant dread of been ‘thrown out into the gutter so it would be very interesting for them. I think that some may also be a little shocked about how dangerous it was for young girls around their age and how some were driven to become ‘fallen women’ as Grace describes it. Furthermore, at one point in the story, we meet Charles Dickens, which is in keeping with Mary Hooper's liking of using real people in her books.
Overall it was a rare gem of a book, emotional, full of suspense, thrilling and exceptionally well written.