Friday, May 6, 2011

Book Review - Fallen Graces

Fallen GraceFallen Grace by Mary Hooper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fallen Grace is a wonderful historical YA story involving a strong heroine, fifteen-year-old Grace. We begin watching her struggles in Victorian London as she tries to find a way to get a decent burial for her stillborn child. Her grandparents disowned the family when her parents married, her father disappeared before her birth, her mother died when she was five-after charging Grace with the care of her sister Lily. Lily is older chronologically, but her mind is forever a child, leaving her prey to everyone and needing Grace's constant care.

Grace's attempt to bury her child puts her into the path of a conspiracy as people pretend to befriend the girls while trying to defraud them. The story shows the stratified London society. History oozes from this novel, and the death of the Prince Consort plays a major role in the story. We see what life is like in Victorian orphanages and workhouses, the sacrifices people have to make just to survive on a daily basis, and gain an in-depth look at the funeral business as Grace becomes desperate enough to accept employment as a Mute - a paid mourner for high-priced funerals.

The reader is told a secret early on, that Grace's child was not stillborn but instead given to a wealthy family that has suffered numerous miscarriages. At first we think this will be a story of how Grace is reunited with her son. But her journey is more convoluted than that, as people attempt to defraud her and her sister of a fortune left them by their late father, and she uncovers the identity of the man who raped her and fathered that child while she was in a workhouse.

Grace needs all her wits and determination to search for her missing sister, thwart the villains who seek her inheritance, and seek vengeance for all the girls who have been attacked by the villain. And to decide on the right future for her son.

I worried about both Grace and Lily, loved the devotion the sisters had for each other, and appreciated Grace's strength and determination to survive and care for the sister she loved no matter how big the burden was. Most of all, the ending was satisfying, and left me feeling hopeful for all their futures.

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