Friday March 4, 2011
by Mary Hooper
Goodreads summary: 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.
Pontifications...I adore historical fiction so naturally I was excited when I received this one for review...especially when the back cover states "a Dickensian social commentary, as well as malicious fraud, mysterious secrets and a riveting read." Sa-weet!
Readers will be hooked right away into the lives of Grace Parkes and her sister Lily as they face unfathomable living conditions and heartache. If you've read books like The Luxe series where the story is all about the rich society people in the early part of the Twentieth century...this story is about those that served them, who lived impoverished, barely surviving.
As advertised this story has Dickens elements in that there are some definite villain's and the innocents they prey on. There was some great foreshadowing that had me stressing out about what could happen to Grace and Lily. Luckily, there is a nice balance and they meet some nice people who help them out along the way.
There are a lot of secrets and mysteries in this one! The book was well researched and really shows the tragedy of child poverty in this time period. There are a few sensitive and mature-ish issues too so I recommend for ages 13 and up.