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Fallen Grace Paperback – 6 Jun 2011
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'If the beach reading season has you craving a novel with bold characters and a zippy pace, consider this slice of young adult Victoriana' (Daily Mail)
'Nobody tells a story like Mary Hooper does. Her ability to make the lives of girls in times past come alive for the modern reader is a special skill. As well as her superb grasp of period settings, she revels in extraordinary and fascinating human stories that cry out to be told. Such lives could not be in better hands' (John McLay, Director, Bath Festival of Children's Literature)
'A sensitive and tautly-plotted novel, intelligently told' (Daily Mail)
'By any standards, an exceptional novel . . . the gift for taking historical situations and making them emotionally engaging is far too rare . . . after six historical novels, this one is Hooper's breakthrough and its characterisation, plotting and atmosphere are first-rate and deserve prizes . . . Not since Philip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke has there been such a gorgeous evocation of Victorian life - or so satisfying a conclusion' (Amanda Craig, The Times)
Nominated for the Carnegie Medal 2011
The best new historical novel of the year' The Times
A thrilling tale set in the Victorian era, featuring Grace, who's held in thrall by her own dark secret that threatens to overwhelm her and her sister
Top customer reviews
Death was a large feature of Victorian England and Mary Hooper explored so many different aspects of this fascinating subject. All of the characters and events in Grace's life are linked to death in some way. She meets both her biggest enemy and her most loyal ally at Brookwood Cemetery. Mourning was such a prominent part of Victorian life, especially when Prince Albert died which is an event included in this story.
The Unwins are a brilliant creation, there is something deliciously sinister about them. Their business is to make as much money as possible out of someones death. Whilst presenting themselves as respectable undertakers, their business dealings are extremely devious and devoid of morals.
I think that Grace's character embodied what it must have been like to have been one of the Victorian poor. Grace is placed in so many desperate situations in order to provide enough for her and her sister Lily, however, she remains dignified throughout.
I don't want to give anything away about the plot in this review as it would spoil the book for others. It is extremely good though and the author has you on the edge of your seat on several occasions in the book.
If you like historical fiction then I would definitely give this one a go. I read it in one sitting and I am looking forward to catching up with some of Mary Hooper's previous books.
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.
Now I am (much) older I enjoyed reading it--but in a different way. I can appreciate everything that has gone into creating it and just what an accomplished young adult novelist Mary Hooper is. She has taken all the elements of Victorian literature: (especially the novels of Charles Dickens who even makes a cameo appearance) the exposure of hypocrisy and social ills and the huge gulf between rich and poor and remodelled them afresh for the young twenty-first century reader.
In doing so, she has created a heart-warming rags-to-riches story that will appeal to today's young readers. Grace, like Oliver Twist, suffers abuse, poverty and hardship but lacks any sickly sanctimoniousness which often marred Victorian fiction so that it no longer appeals to us. It is a master-stroke to give her Lily as a sister for it it is her love for her that wins our admiration.
And throughout the novel, young readers will learn a wealth of information about class differences, the Victorian attitude to death; the traps that await the unwary, the iniquities of baby-farming, the double-standards that prevailed in the name of Christian charity and just how vulnerable poor children were then. (The Unwins are a gloriously creepy family well worthy of Dickens!) However, the novel never feels like a history lesson. The author creates exactly the right balance.
Some reviewers have complained about the sensationalism of the plot; the chase through the London smog, documents hidden in coffins, people dropping dead of fright. However, this is so right for the period. If you've read as many Victorian novels as I have, you'll understand just how clever Mary Hooper is.
Not only has she written a Victorian novel for modern times, it is a great homage to an era in which crime fiction had its beginnings and saw the heyday of what is today known as the Gothic. Great stuff!
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I picked this up after seeing a friend rave on her blog. It's not the sort of novel I usually reach for.Read more