Genre: Historical Fiction
First Impression: What will you teach me?
Synopsis: Grace Parkes has just had to do a terrible thing. Having given birth to an illegitimate child, she has travelled to the famed Brookwood Cemetery to place her small infant’s body in a rich lady’s coffin. Following the advice of a kindly midwife, this is the only way that Grace can think of to give something at least to the little baby who died at birth, and to avoid the ignominy of a pauper’s grave. Distraught and weeping, Grace meets two people at the cemetery: Mrs Emmeline Unwin and Mr James Solent. These two characters will have a profound effect upon Grace’s life. But Grace doesn’t know that yet. For now, she has to suppress her grief and get on with the business of living: scraping together enough pennies selling watercress for rent and food; looking after her older sister, who is incapable of caring for herself; thwarting the manipulative and conscience-free Unwin family, who are as capable of running a lucrative funeral business as they are of defrauding a young woman of her fortune. A stunning evocation of life in Victorian London, with vivid and accurate depictions, ranging from the deprivation that the truly poor suffered to the unthinking luxuries enjoyed by the rich: all bound up with a pacy and thrilling plot, as Grace races to unravel the fraud about to be perpetrated against her and her sister.
200 words (or less) review: Fallen Grace is a beautifully written story of young girl struggling to survive in poverty while mourning the death of child she was forced to have. The details of Grace’s environment are richly described. Lily, her elder sister is sweet, innocent and impossible not to love.
Grace’s story starts with her taking her stillborn baby to the cemetery so she can place the child in a rich lady’s coffin to avoid a pauper’s grave. It is there that she meets the Unwin’s who later offer her and Lily work and a place to sleep.
I learned a lot about Victorian London following Grace’s journey and enjoyed every part of it. Grace is an amazing character who struggles through on her own because even though Lily loves her dearly she is impossible of providing the support Grace needs.
When I finished the final page I was sad to leave Grace and Lily but happy with how everything turned out. While the story is good and would have been enough to keep me reading, it is actually the characterisation and Mary Hooper’s outstanding description of Grace’s world that took me from liking to loving this book.
Certainly, plus Sunshine Star.