Fallen Grace

16 Jun

Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper takes place in a Dickensian 1861 London. Grace and her older sister Lily are orphans trying to survive by selling watercress, and it doesn’t help that Lily is mentally impaired. In addition, Grace just suffered through a pregnancy and the birth of a stillborn child. The midwife recommends she bury the child in the casket of a rich lady, and instructs her to go to the necropolis railway and find a suitable corpse. She meets both a kind lawyer (and brother to the dead woman whose grave Grace secretly hid her bundle in) and an unkind funeral business owner – Mrs. Unwin – at the graveyard. Both give Grace their cards, and this is where the story really takes off.

When Grace and her sister are forced out of their boarding house, Grace is forced to work as a “mute” (a pretty, grim, silent person who attends funerals) for the crooked Unwin family business. Her sister Lily is sent to work as a maid. Little do they know that the Unwins have terrible ulterior motives for employing the girls. In addition, there is more to the birth of Grace’s child than expected.

Fallen Grace is an interesting and well-researched read. The historical period works well, and the book is full of surprises and great details. For example, just the Victorian obsession with death and mourning is fascinating. The clothing rules alone – black for full mourning, purple for half-mourning etc…were complex and surely an example of successful marketing by the funeral business. It was also considered “unlucky” to keep mourning clothes, so they were to be thrown away, and new clothes were to be bought when a new death occurred.

This all sounds much more grim than it is – Grace is strong and smart, and even when faced with terrible circumstances she perseveres. The romance element of the book is good without being a central focus. Grace is an excellent character, and the author manages to tell a tragic story in a way that isn’t melodramatic or overdone.

Nora’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Mary Hooper
Publisher: Bloomsbury (2010)

One Response to “Fallen Grace”

  1. Cheyenne Teska 18. Jun, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    Thank you for sharing your review! This book sounds incredible and extremely emotional. I’m pretty sure it’s on my wishlist of books to get in the future, but I’m going to double check and if it’s not, it will be.

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