Top positive review
One person found this helpful
Engaging historical fiction
on 22 September 2011
I have been avid fan of Mary Hooper ever since I read the wonderful Newes From The Dead and I haven't been disappointed with any of her historical novels for children either, Fallen Grace was especially good with its focus on the Victorians' obsession with death and mourning.
Velvet, our eponymous heroine, has not had an easy life - losing her mother, then neglected by an abusive, gambling father and eventually orphaned. The only thing keeping her from the workhouse is her daily drudgery in the steam laundry but Velvet aspires to greater things. Fate intervenes in the shape of the mysterious Madame Savoya, kin to the Romanovs, who is becoming one of the most popular spiritual mediums in London at a time when spiritualism is all the rage. Naturally Velvet jumps at the chance of becoming Madame's maid/helper and, at first, she is dazzled by the glamour and excitement of her new life. Gradually the seeds of doubt are sown but discovering the truth could have fatal consequences.
Mary Hooper has the knack of drawing her readers straight in from the opening lines - you feel the intense heat and claustraphobic atmosphere of the steam laundry, you feel the tense expectation of the audience at her seances, you feel the desperation of those who will pay any price to have one more moment with their deceased loved ones. The inclusion of real-life characters such as the renowned Spiritualist, Arthur Conan Doyle and infamous Baby Farm murderer, Amelia Dyer, adds texture and depth to this gripping story. The fictional characters are all fully fleshed, flaws and all, especially Velvet's fatal flaw - vanity. I love the way I always learn something new by reading Mary Hooper's historical novels without feeling I'm back in the classroom. Her Historical Notes at the back of the book are particularly useful with the extra information on Baby Farms and Spiritualism.
Aimed at age 12+, this is an extremely engaging read for folk of any age who like a touch of warmth and zest in their historical fiction.
You can find up to date information on Mary hooper on her facebook page and she also contributes to a wonderful historical fiction blog The History Girls.