Fallen Grace is a rags to riches tale of the very best kind and filled with the characters that make this kind of book so compelling. There is tragic Grace, poor and badly treat yet hard working, kind and fiercely loyal; the detestable Unwin family, rich, cruel and conniving and the handsome young solicitor Mr James Solent, champion of the underdog. It reminds me of those saga's I would steal from my Mum's bookshelves. I did love reading those books but often found them too long, spanning such a lengthy time period I would get bored or frustrated at yet another tragedy for the poor heroine. Covering just a year in Fifteen year old Grace's life, Mary Hooper's latest book doesn't suffer this problem. It has everything needed for a deliciously juicy saga, but the story is contained and my attention was captured throughout the 300 pages.
I loved our heroine, Grace. She is tragic enough to gain sympathy but strong enough not to become pitying. Orphaned young and left to take care of her disabled older sister, despite the awful situation she finds herself in she remains loyal and loving. Her sister Lily is adorable, a young child in the body of a young woman her simplistic naivety at the world is touching, although of course in the surrounding London slums, dangerous and extremely trying too. The other characters in the book are also extremely vivid, no matter how small their part and all of them were brought to life in my mind. I could almost see the book playing out as one of those Sunday evening TV drama adaptations as I read.
The setting of the book is described with such detail that while reading I felt transported to 19th century England. With a backdrop of the highly prosperous and opulent Victorian funeral industry the story is deliciously sinister and macabre, without being gruesome.I didn't know just how many rituals and rules of etiquette there were surrounding mourning dress. It was fascinating! As well, there are all the extravagant trimmings to ensure you give your wealthy loved one the most fashionable of send off's, disguised as being 'respectful and proper' although largely made up by the Funeral industry itself to further enhance their finances. The amount of research Mary Hooper must have undertook to write this book is clear, and it pays off as the book is extremely interesting as well as being a fantastic read.
I thoroughly enjoyed Fallen Grace. The historical detail and the bizarre Funeral industry setting make it an original, interesting and sinister read. With character's leaping from the pages and description that will take you right to the heart of Victorian London, it's a book to curl up cosy with and savour every last bit. There are some difficult themes such as rape and abuse mentioned, although neither in graphic detail (it happens before the book begins and so is mentioned but not described) and I think this book would appeal to fans of historical fiction of any age from age 12+ or for anyone with an interest in this period of history.