Title: Fallen Grace
Author: Mary Hooper
Genre: YA Historical
Summary (from Goodreads)
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 affect 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.
What’s Good About It
I picked this up after seeing a friend rave on her blog. It’s not the sort of novel I usually reach for. There’s a distinct absence of magic and monsters. Despite that, though, I really loved Fallen Grace.
It wasn’t the most challenging of plots, and there was never really a sense that things wouldn’t turn out all for the best for everyone in the end, even when the situation of Grace and her sister was at its most dire, but it was a beautifully written book, perfect for whiling away a morning.
Victorian London was evoked brilliantly, and within a few pages, I was left really wanting to watch Young Victoria. I love books that make me fascinated with the subject matter and desperate to learn more about it. Victorian England is not a subject that has interested me before. I read Great Expectations for my GCSE and hated it, and that’s about the limit of my experience with the topic. But, as I said, I’m now filled with an urge to go out and find more books, films and immerse myself in the culture.
It was very easy to read, too. After working hard to make my way through a few books, it was so refreshing to read something that could just be absorbed and enjoyed. I doubt it will ever win awards for brilliance, but it was exactly what I needed. I devoured it in a few hours.
What’s Not So Good
As I said, the plot isn’t exactly full of threat. Grace does find herself in some difficult situations, but the overriding feeling was always that a huge pile of money or a forgotten relative was waiting round the corner for our heroine, even in the opening pages, before it becomes completely clear where the plot is heading.
There are a few too many coincidences and cases of ‘that’s a bit convenient’ to make it really elegant writing. Lyrical, yes, but when looking at plot rather than prose, there were one too characters connected to Grace and her plight in increasingly unlikely ways. In fiction you can forgive a couple of coincidences, but after that it just becomes laughable. Not laughable enough to reduce this below four stars, but too much so for it to earn any higher.