Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Book Review: The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose by Mary Hooper

My summary:

When fifteen Eliza Rose is thrown out of her home by her step mother in 1670 she journeys to London in the hope of finding her father and starting a new life there. However, things don't go as expected as Eliza quickly finds how harsh the streets of London and when she gives into hunger and steals a pasty, she is caught and thrown into Clink Prison. Faced with filth, fever, lice and rats, her hopes and dreams of a life in London fall flat .. When finally she is offered a chance of freedom by an old woman who calls herself Old Ma Gwyn, Eliza jumps at the start of having a second chance at making a life for herself in London but she soon realises in horror what immoral Ma Gywn expects from her in return from rescuing her. Befriended by Ma Gywn's daughter who is favoured by the King, Eliza is taken under her wing and introduced to the world of the theatre and the King's court as her situation improves. However Eliza is still too poor and common to be taken seriously by the handsome young noblemen, Valentine Howard who captured her heart when she first met him when she was begging in prison and is thrown in her path again often. 
 Fate seems determined to stop to finding her father and Eliza longs to find her real place in London society, a place she can call home. Taking on various jobs and disguises including orange seller to lady's maid, can Eliza find where she belongs?

My thoughts

Eliza's story is a fictionalised tale told through the third person, which allowed me to also get to know the other characters in the book besides herself. I found her plights and struggles in the unfamiliar and harsh world of Elizabethan London easy to relate to and credible. Her story was quite fast paced and full of twists and turns in Eliza's life that took me by surprise and through all of this, we get to meet a large cast of characters. Some of these characters were real such as Nell Gywn, the famous mistress of King Charles who is known for her charming wit and beauty. I found Nell particularly interesting because of the unstable life that she led and her carefree take on the world, I think she is a character than needs to be explored more in historical books. She also brought some light hearted humour to the book that was a great contrast against some of the darker themes running through the book.
Mary Hooper writes exceptionally well and through her vivid description of Elizabethan London, a sense of being back in that era was created and I love how the darker side of society was also shown so as to be realistic without being too explicit.
The only thing that I was let down by was the ending as although I didn't mind the fact that it was 'fairy tale' like and fairly predictable, I found that I was left wanting to find out how the other characters reacted to the ending so that it felt more complete. Having said that, it leaves brilliant scope for a sequel and I hope that Mary Hooper will eventually write one.

The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose definitely earns its title and transports you back to Elizabethan London through realistic depictions on a journey with a kind and beautiful protagonist who is trying to find her place in the world. This  beautiful fairy- tale like story with a hint of sweet romance will definitely take you on an adventure!


  1. I might just try this book. Have you read Newes from the Dead, also by Mary Hooper? If not, my review is here - http://notesoflife.co.uk/?p=451

  2. If you do, I hope you enjoy it! Yes, I have read News From The Dead and enjoyed it too. I'll check out your review now anyway, thanks for the link :)

  3. Here from the Sunday Blues! This sounds like an interesting book, although historical fiction isn't always my cup of tea.

  4. Hi, I'm here from Sunday Blues!

    Sounds intriguing! I don't usually like historical fiction from so far back but I do love fairy tale retellings and fairy tales in general. So you've certainly piqued my interest.

  5. Oh this looks like something up my alley. I love historical fiction.

  6. This sounds like a very good work of historical fiction. I will have to add it to my wishlist.

  7. I really like the sound of this one. I'd not heard of it before so thanks for sharing!

  8. When I first started reading your review, I was afraid she was going to wind up in a brothel! So glad she didn't. :) This book sounds interesting!

  9. I have never heard of this book! Isn't that insane.. it's definitely a story that sounds fantastic and a plot and genre I love to read. :) Thanks for the great and honest review.


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