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Fallen Grace – Mary Hooper

“Grace, holding on tightly to her precious burden, found
the station entrance without much difficulty. The Necropolis Railway ran, just
as Mrs Smith the midwife had said, on its own special line from Waterloo to
Brookwood Cemetery in the county of Surrey, and it was at the London Station,
just before eleven o’clock, that the newly bereaved gathered, all dress in the
first stage of deep mourning.”

Growing up as an orphan in Victorian London is difficult
enough, and that’s before you take into account your sister who is a simple
girl, your mothers belongings that are starting to dwindle as you pawn them and
a terrible act which sees you having to find a midwife.  Grace and her sister were happy at their
orphanage, but then they left and their luck to a turn for the worse. With
their trades in watercress falling and getting kicked out of their room with
nothing but the clothes on their back Grace turns to the Unwins for help.
Getting a job as a mute in their funeral parlour, Grace is separated from Lily
for the first time, unaware of what the Unwins have in store for either of
them.

***

I received this book back in May… I put it to one side
when I saw the reviews that claimed it was very Dickensian, I can’t get along
with Dickens’ writing and I thought that if Hooper was very similar I would
have difficulties. When I finally picked in up and started reading though I was
amazed. The book and style is very Dickensian in style but the writing flows
amazingly well and I found myself speeding through it in one working day!
There’s so much going on in this book that I can’t pick
out what I loved the most, it’s all incredibly mixed, there are happy moments,
sad moments and even terrifying moments! Even with all this though the story is
complex yet not confusing and all pieces together remarkably well. The story isn’t
told from any of the characters and floats between people who are important in
the story. I loved this as you weren’t attached to Grace constantly and you
found stuff out before she did, you can piece the information together. The
style of writing really was beautiful and whilst I can see how its Dickensian I
can also see where it differs. Hooper puts a lot of rich descriptions in her
writing, you can envisage the streets, the people and the places so well just but
the descriptions don’t take up three pages as it would in a Dickens novel! I
love that Dickens even pops up in one part of the book, that was really well
done and I was happy to see him as it is very much Dickens’ London that we
visit in this book.
The characters were amazingly well portrayed. Grace was
amazingly strong and loyal and you would want her as a part of your family. She
wanted nothing more than to look after her sister and to care for her mother’s
memory. She didn’t want to turn to a life of crime and grime to make ends meet
but I have a feeling she would have done anything to help Lily. Because of the
narration you don’t fuly get inside her head as you would if it was first
person but I enjoyed the closeness that was there when Grace was on the pages,
I really just wanted to help her!! Lily is a simple girl and because of this
you feel for her a lot of the time. I was worried for her for most of the book
and I think that’s there for the reader to understand what’s going through
Graces head. The rest of the characters in this book were brilliant, I loved
Violet as soon as I met her, knew the Unwins were baddies (but didn’t realise quite
how bad!) and as for James… Awww James is such a sweetie! He could tell that
Grace needed a helping hand though was too stubborn to take one, but he tried
anyway.
There are lots of little bits that added to the story so well
in this book, the little clues you get about certain things early on, the
little snippets into other people’s lives, and especially the little
advertisements over the chapter headings of each chapter. They were amazing and
I loved them so much! They added to the story beautifully well.
Death plays a huge part in this book, but thats not to
say the book is morbid. The girls are orphans, they come across many older
people who do pass away. But also working at a funeral parlour you would expect
a lot of death. I think this added to the marose-ness of the story, Grace hasn’t
had a good life and she is constantly reminded that it may not last long, but
shes determined to make it be a good one. I also have to add that this book has
one of the best death scenes i have ever read in it! You will understand if you
have read it!
I used to think I wasn’t a big historical fiction fan but
seriously I have read so many good historical books this year that I really
must change my opinion on them. Mary Hooper does a fantastic job of visualising
Victorian London and I really can’t wait for her new book, Velvet, as I think
that may be just as good as this one!
Fallen Grace is the most recent addition to Hooper’s
historical fiction collection. It was published in June by Bloomsbury. Her new
book will be out on the 5th September, also published by Bloomsbury.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this one for review. 

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