on 11 May 2013
Life is hard work but safe for Kitty in the country. A dairy maid on a big estate, she has a secure job, friends and even a sweetheart. What should be an exciting opportunity (a trip to London to purchase a copy of the newly-published Pride and Prejudice for her employers) turns into a nightmare. Country-bred, innocent Kitty is not street-wise enough for London.
This is an evocative story, as one would expect from Mary Hooper. The world is filtered through Kitty's innocent point of view and Hooper's writing is, as always, deceptively simple. Kitty's innocence is powerfully contrasted with the might of the establishment as it conspires to crush her.
The powerlessness of innocence and poverty in the face of a law designed to protect the already-wealthy is especially pertinent to us today, as we watch legal aid being removed from the most vulnerable. Kitty has no chance of avoiding the fate of all those so poor they are forced to break the law to survive. Or has she?
We have seen some wonderful settings in Mary Hooper's historical novels: laundry, funeral parlour, cress-selling, sweet-making and now a dairy-maid - so different in London to in the country. All beautifully evoked and described.
Beautifully researched, charmingly written; Kitty Grey is a delight.
Kitty may not be rich but she is happy with her life, she works for a wealthy family as a dairymaid and although her hours are long she is well treated and has plenty of food to eat. She even has a sweetheart, local ferryman Will, who she adores and hopes to one day marry. Then Will disappears leaving Kitty to look after his four year old sister Betsy alone. Will didn't even say goodbye but Kitty knows he has family in London and wanted to go there to make his fortune so when the opportunity comes up she decides to go in search of him to reunite Betsy with her brother. What Kitty didn't realise was how big London is or just quite how harsh life can be there for a woman alone with a young child. Within minutes of their arrival all of their belongings are stolen and Kitty is forced to take desperate measures just to survive, ones that end with her arrested for stealing.
I'm a huge fan of Mary Hooper's writing, she has a way of bringing history to life and I think that's partly down to all the little details she adds to her stories - those little snippets from true stories that show how well researched her books are. I love the way she always introduces some less talked about aspects of history too, in Fallen Grace it was Victorian funeral traditions, in Velvet it was the horror of baby farms and in The Disgrace of Kitty Grey it was the treatment of female prisoners and the prison ships that were sent to colonise Australia along with some very interesting snippets about the life of a milkmaid.
Kitty is such a great character, she is quite innocent, especially when it comes to the ways of city life, but at the same time she has a great inner strength that is what pulls her through the difficult times. Nothing about London is what she was expecting it to be and it was a real struggle for her just to survive, she tries so hard to get a job and earn the money she needs to look after Betsy but circumstances keep going against her. It makes you really appreciate the justice and welfare systems we have in place now because it was practically impossible for single women to make an honest living in the past, especially one with a child because of the stigma of being an unmarried mother. The conditions in the prisons were just horrific for the poor, sentences for relatively small crimes were high and unless you had the money to bribe the guards for extra food or even a blanket then life was miserable. In contrast if you were rich then prison could have all the comforts of home right down to a four poster bed if you paid enough for the privilege!
There were a couple of coincidences in The Disgrace of Kitty Grey that were a little hard to believe but that didn't stop me thoroughly enjoying the story. Kitty was lucky enough to find some supportive friends who made life at Newgate prison a little more bearable for her and Betsy. I think anyone with even a slight interest in history is going to love any of Mary Hooper's books and this one is no exception. I can't wait to see what interesting topic she introduces next.
on 9 January 2015
I loved the sense of history in this book, the places felt really realistic. It had lots of moments where I was left guessing what would happen next as I didn't know what was about to happen.
Kitty Grey lives a charmed life as milkmaid in a model dairy in a country house. She is in love with Will, a ferryman who lives in a small run-down hovel by the river but hopes to go to London to make his fortune so that he and Kitty to marry. However, things go badly for Will, who along with his sisters was orphaned. His elder sister is forced to leave as her husband is laid off asnd starts a fights with the farmer. Will has to look after Betsy, his little sister, and brings her to the manor asking Kitty if she can stay there. This is on the day that Kitty has led one of her cows into the library so that the girls of the house can use her in a living picture charade. I wish more had been made of this idea as it could have worked out more fun but it got swamped in the rest of the story and seemed only to be to get Kitty to be friends with the Lord's daughter and be asked by her to go to London to get a copy of Pride and Prejudice. This seemed a bit far-fetched. Kitty finds Will his gone and left her with Betsy and assumes he has abandoned them. She thinks to looks for him whilst in London with Betsy. on arrival she is robbed. i found her reaction perplexing as she did not even think to go to the law, or even talk to a clergyman in St Pauls who might have helped and got word to the fam,ily at the hall. Instead she goes to be a milkmaid in a filthy London dairy and stays with Betsy in horrible lodgings. When Betsy falls sick she burns a chair for firewood and is sent to Newgate prison. The scenes here were really atmospheric. Kitty gets sentenced to 7 years in Austalia for arson but finds on whilst on the ship that Will has been press ganged. With the help of a navy officer who Sophia, the Lords' daughter, loves, she and Betsy pretend to have died and are taken from the ship in a body bag and relased so that they can go home with Will to the hall. The story ends happily with Kitty and Will marrying.
on 26 January 2016
I always enjoy Mary Hooper’s books. I find she’s one of those authors who are perfect to read when you just want something nice and light to while away a few hours. And I love how her books are full of fact as well as fiction!
The Disgrace of Kitty Grey is the story of a young diary maid. Working for a rich lord, she lives a nice but sheltered country life, and often dreams of the day when her sweet heart Will can finally save enough money to propose to her. However things turn upside down for Kitty when Will disappears without as much as a goodbye.
Certain that he has gone to London to find his fortune, Kitty is furious that he has left her alone to care for his four year old sister. Therefore, when her mistress asks her to go to London, Kitty jumps at the chance – taking Wills sister along with her.
Yet things go downhill for Kitty the moment she arrives in City. Robbed, penniless and with a child to care for, despair hits her when she realises her chances of finding Will are miniscule. Soon branded a thief and thrown in prison, Kitty is only a reassured in her thoughts that things cannot get worse, only the do. Now she is forced to admit that not only will she not be reunited with Will, but she is likely to never see her home again…
You can’t help but enjoy this book. While I thought it got off to a slow beginning, the story really picks up the pace the moment Kitty arrives in London. As misfortune upon misfortune begins to fall upon her, you can’t help but sympathise with her situation.
Kitty is a timid character but she is smart and kind hearted. I was furious by the harsh fate thrust upon and was both annoyed and frustrated by Will’s sister who without doubt, made Kitty’s life infinitely harder. Yet I couldn’t help but turn the pages to find out what happened next.
Set in Regency England, I was also shocked to learn how unfair and corrupt the justice system was back then. I found it particularly interesting how harsh people were to Kitty - simply because they thought she had had a child out of wedlock, but it was also fascinating to read about the state and affairs of English prisons.
So overall a most engaging book and one I truly enjoyed! Historically accurate but not at all boring, it will take you on a journey through the past and give you real insight into the period.
The Disgrace of Kitty Grey is charming, insightful and ripe with history. A very nice read - 4 stars!
on 10 August 2015
Mary Hooper is one of my favourite authors i discovered her books when i was around 14/15 i am now 20 and i continue to buy each one, i think they can be enjoyed no matter how old you are. The historical detail is very accurate and it almost feels like you are there, i love how kitty is strong and challenges her misfortune. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves fiction or just anyone in general.
on 6 June 2013
Originally published on Serendipity Reviews.
Mary Hooper is one of those authors who can pick you up and transport you anywhere in history. Every book she writes is so thoroughly researched, you feel like the author has magical powers allowing her to visit the periods in history she writes so realistically about.
During this novel, we are transported back to the time of Napoleon and find ourselves in a beautiful, idyllic country setting. Life isn't easy, but Kitty loves her job and works hard to do it well; she takes great pride in the dairy. With the love of Will, the ferryman, she is content and looks forward to spending the future with him. It's only when he disappears that Kitty's life starts to unravel. In her desperation to find him, she enters London blindly only to discover her future doesn't look too bright any more.
This book is full of fascinating contrasts. In the beginning, you compare Kitty's life to the wealthy family she works for. The differences are obvious, and yet surprisingly, Kitty's life seems more appealing. At least she can choose who she would like to marry unlike the young ladies of the house who are bound by their parent's decisions. As the book progresses you begin to contrast life in the country with life in London. London comes across as grey and depressing, as Kitty struggles to survive. As each day passes, her situation just gets worse until she ends up in Newgate Prison, the lowest she can go.
I loved the descriptions in this book.From country life to London life, you get an excellent impression of both. Newgate Prison has always intrigued me. The conditions they lived under were appalling; the lack of places to sleep, no opportunities for cleanliness and very little food, yet if you had money you could pay to make your conditions better. This shows clearly the unfairness of society during this period in history. People were jailed for the least little thing. If someone burnt a chair these days, I doubt an eyebrow would be lifted, yet in those days you were thrown in jail, facing the possibility of being whipped or put in the stocks.
If I'm honest, I would've liked a different ending. I wanted to see what would happen if Kitty continued on the route she was originally destined to take. How her life would have turned out if the events of the final pages had not occurred. On reviewing the book now, I wonder if the author might take that idea and use it for a future book and we might see what happens when someone actually takes the journey that Kitty nearly embarked on.
on 7 February 2014
This is a great story with some really good historical information in it about London in times gone by, would highly recommend!
on 3 November 2013
Kitty lives a happily as a milkmaid in a titled house of Devonshire but her life thrown upside down when she goes to London and ends up in prison. She in the end Marries her sweetheart. Such a brilliant story.
on 31 May 2013
I love Mary Hooper's work. This is about the fourth of her books that I've read, and I've loved every one. They are so romantic, interesting, but above all easy that they make utterly perfect reading for a warm summer's afternoon.
Hooper's primary talent is taking a small facet of historical times and bringing it beautifully to life - simple story lines a vehicle to portray some of the fascinating practises of times bygone. In The Disgrace of Kitty Grey it's the prisons of London and how men and women who stole to feed their families faced the terrifying prospect of transportation to Australia. As Kitty is helplessly thrown from one bad situation to another, the sad reality of life for many of London's poor is illustrated.
The storyline doesn't offer much in the way of challenge, and there's always an overriding sense that everything will work out alright for everyone in the end. I did think there was something of an imbalance in the structure - with a lot of time spent in Kitty's home before anything perilous happens, then by the 80% on my Kindle edition I was wondering if there was enough room left to resolve all the plot points. There was. Just. But the ending did leave me wanting a little more.
Overall, though, this was thoroughly enjoyable. As I said, Hooper's books are just easy going, light reads, and sometimes that's just what you need.
on 17 July 2013
Full Disclosure: I won this as a prize on the History Girls website, so it was a freebie (but with no strings attached)
I enjoyed it. Kitty is a Milkmaid working for a wealthy family living in Devon in 1813, and the book follows her life at the manor, and her subsequent adventures and misadventures after she is sent to London.
Mary Hooper does an excellent job of portraying the often brutal realities of life for an ordinary woman in 19th C London, and how easily one could slip into the clutches of the law, and how impossible it was to escape 'justice'. It's a period which interests me, and so little of the factual background was unfamiliar to me (although I had not heard of the underground cows before!) but the book is marketed to a YA audience, and I suspect would be an excellent introduction to the period for those not familiar with it, as well as being a good story!
The ended strained my credulity a little; it wasn't impossible, just a bit improbable, but nevertheless I enjoyed the book and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it, particularly to teens interested in history or law.