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on 29 November 2010
Hannah, a country girl, is suitably impressed with her first sight (and smell) of the great city of London, and it's with a spring in her step that she traverses the busy streets on her way to the Sign of the Sugared Plum, and her sister's sweetmeat/confectionary shop.
But sweet soon turns to sour when Hannah learns that she shouldn't have come here, that the deadly pestilence has found its way into the city. She's not one to be brought down so easily, especially when there is so much to see and to learn, fascinating new people (like the apothecary's apprentice Tom) and an old friend, Abby, now a ladie's maid, to meet up with. Yet even her spirits cannot remain high forever as day by day, the fingers of death spread through the city, creeping closer and ever closer to the Sign of the Sugared Plum...

This YA story, told through the innocent and hopeful eyes of Hannah, is a brilliant tale, full of engaging characters, which manages to tell the true stories of the terrible London Plague of 1665 in an interesting manner. As well as learning about the heretofore unknown art of old confectionary making, the ever-present threat of the pestilence whispers its way through the prose, keeping you guessing until the final pages.

If the second in this era series, Petals on the Wind, is as good, then it's well worth a read!
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on 28 January 2004
At the Sign of the Sugared Plum tells the story of Hannah who moves to London full of excitment only to find that the plague is sweeping through the city. As more and more people become ill, Hannah and her sister have to decide what to do. The final chapters are nail biting! As well as being a great story, the book gives a brilliant insight into the life of teenagers during that period of history. I had not read any books by Mary Hooper before but i will definitely read more now!
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on 29 January 2011
"At the sign of the Sugared Plum", is a tragic tale about a young girl called Hannah who travels from the countryside to London, where she works with her sister Sarah at a sweetmeats shop (a sweet shop). Hannah is a kind and caring girl who would do anything for people she knows. She is very romantic and loves her sister and friends dearly. Mary Hooper describes the arrival of the Plague in London as being full of terror and death, you also feel like you are in the city because of the amazing imagery she conjures up. This story has romance, death, sadness and friendship and was quite a hard book to get into at first, but then I couldn't put it down. It is quite a short book but is very meaningful and expresses how friends and family are so important and they will always be in you heart. This book includes at the back some sweetmeat recipes from the Stuart period and Notes on the London Plague of 1665. This book makes you both cry and cheers you up I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I did. There is a sequal to this book which is about Hannah's travels back to London, the book is called "Petals in Ashes".
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on 26 January 2011
This is about a girl called Hannah who visits her sister in London. They both have to escape catching the plague which is spreading quickly. It is set in a time of disaster, and makes you feel as if you were there, hearing about this disease that could kill you at any time and watching it's impact on the life around you. This book gives a good insight to life in the 17th century and isn't really much of a fiction story since you could imagine someone real dealing with the plague in this terrible situation.

I really enjoyed this book because even though it was fairly short, there was a lot of information packed into it, yet the plot was moving along at a steady pace - not too quickly. I did expect it to be a little bit longer, but nevertheless it was still interesting. I kept wanting to read more and find out what happens next. I would recommend it to people who love learning about history and a good page-turner.
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on 9 July 2009
It is a shame that not everyone hears about this book so they don't read it. It was so gripping and I couldn't put it down once it started!
Hannah goes into London to work with her sister, who has her own shop called the Sugared Plum, it has this fantastic description of her walking through London and feeling so excited. When poor Hannah arrives she finds her sister who isn't pleased to see her there becasue there has been an outbreak of the plague. Hannah vows that she will not go and it is settled that she will stay. The book follows her stay at the Sugared Plum and the spread of the Plague and also the love intrest of Hannah's, Tom! Soon the plague gets so bad that people are dying all around her and there are some fantastic descriptions here from Hooper. This book will hold you from beggining to end and ahs a fantastic story line and characters. You will love it- I know that I will read it time and time again.
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on 3 November 2003
This was a great book and I enjoyed every minute of it. Some parts are quite sad and some happy and there are some things for you to try and make at home at the back of the book. It may be useful for a project on the plague as you journey through London with Hannah and her Sweetmead shop. I would recomend this book to anyone who likes a good read!
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on 17 August 2012
At 29 years I am not in the target read for this book, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I liked the main characters and especially enjoyed the history element of the Plague which I found fascinating-the writer had clearly done her research. I also enjoyed reading about Sweetmeats, not something I had even heard of before!
I did feel the way that the way Hannah escaped the Plague was rather far fetched but I imagine it must have happened. I was reading rather furiously in the second half to find out what happens, the writer portrays excellently the spreading sense of panic as the Plague sweeps through London.
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on 30 November 2014
An excellent short story! This was brimming with the atmosphere of 17th c life and felt so real at points I got a great sense of the anxiety of people at the time of the plague. I liked the fact it had been so well historically researched including real news details from the time and recipes at the back, but not in a way that felt over the top historical and forced.
The story begins with Hannah leaving her home in the country to work with her sister Sarah at her London sweatshop. Hannah is a likeable and believable character, excited about going to the city, fashionable clothes, finding her friend Abby who has gone to be a maid and falling in love with Tom the apprentice to a doctor. However, things quickly descend into fearfulness as the plague grows more by the day.
I was worried for what might happen to Hanbah and her friends, especially when it seemed Sarah had fallen ill but it was only a bad tooth! It was heartbreaking when Abby died. I thought the ending where the sisters manage to flee London by pretending to be a rich lady and her maid in order to save the baby of Abby's mistress was very unexpected and exciting, but I was so worried for Tom thinking he would catch plague from breaking into the house to rescue the baby!
I would have liked a fuller ending though and wondered if Hannah, Sarah and Tom would survive after all. There should be a sequel!
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on 3 April 2014
I haven't read any historical fiction in a while, mainly because I hadn't found one that interested me. I stumbled upon this in the Oxfam Bookshop (I love charity book stores, they're fun to explore!)and I bought it without any hesitation because I'd heard of Mary Hooper after reading one of Marie-Louise Jensen's books.

This turned out to be a really good historical read. I was suitably enthralled, disgusted and excited all at the same time. Enthralled by the events going on, disgusted by the plague and how it was dealt with, and excited by Hannah's exploration and adventures in London.
The character dynamics were brilliant too, and I loved Sarah and Abby as much as I loved Hannah.

My only niggle was the ending because it was abrupt and I never found out what happened to Baby Grace or Sarah. I know Hannah survives because she's in the next book, but Sarah doesn't go back to London with her.
Other than that I loved it, and I will definitely be reading the next when I happen upon it. Mary Hooper is a new author for me but judging from the amount of books she's written I'l be reading them for a long time to come.
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on 10 December 2012
If anyone ever asks me for recommendations when it comes to historical fiction I always tell them to start with a Mary Hooper novel.

Whether is first or third person narration, Mary Hooper's writing pulls you in and keeps you turning the pages until you've reached the end. The language is beautiful, the word-building exquisite (I've always wanted to say that in a review and now I finally can) and the characters are wonderful.

At the Sign of the Sugared Plum is no exception. Hannah travels to London to help her older sister in her `sweetmeats' shop. I loved the way Hannah describes making the sweets. If you're brave enough there are actually a few recipes for sweetmeats at the end of the book.

As the plague takes hold Hannah's narration doesn't falter. We see the horrors through her eyes without the story descending into chaos as her environment does. It's clear that this book has been researched at length and I certainly learned a few things.

At the Sign of the Sugared Plum might be a smaller book but the story is huge and you lose nothing of its value because of a lesser word count.
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