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Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper
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Fallen Grace (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Mary Hooper

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168None71,997 (3.92)18
DubaiReader's review
Young adult historical novel.

This was an enjoyable young adult novel, set in Victorian Britain. It covered a number of fascinating topics, including the plight of London's cripplingly poor, class differences, and the mourning industry which was then at its hey-day.

Grace, who has become 'fallen' through no fault of her own, is making her way to Brookwood Cemetary in the opening scenes. She is carrying a bundle and is travelling on The Necropolis train. This was a train service that escorted London folk out of the city to a distant burial ground, established since the cholera epidemic had filled the cemetaries within London. At the cemetary she meets two characters who will prove crucial to the narrative - a pompous lady funeral director and a young lawyer's clerk.
Since Grace had been orphaned at a young age, she had been caring for her older, but somewhat 'simple' sister, Lily. Together, they lived in a crumbling appartment block in a very poor area of London and sold watercress on the streets to make a few pence. Unfortunately, circumstances left them homeless, shoeless and broke, and thus the scene is set for a slightly farcical adventure.

I thought the first part of the book was excellent, but wasn't so convinced by the 'goings-on' in the second half.
In spite of this, I did learn about the trade of mourning the dead in Victorian England and the book was well worth reading. There is also a brief section at the back of the book that explains some of the relevant historical background.
A great YA author, who I have read and enjoyed before. ( )
  DubaiReader | Apr 19, 2012 |
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Showing 15 of 15
I really enjoyed this one. I wasn't all that intrigued by the premise but the story actually turned out to be really good. I found Grace to be an incredibly lovable character and I found myself really caring about what was going to happen to her and her sister, Lily. The story is really interesting and the corrupt nature of London's rich added a shocking element to it. I was quite annoyed that Hooper put in that small chapter about the baby at the start... it took away any twist at the end when Grace found out the truth. It would have been nice to have been as surprised as Grace was, instead of knowing it all along. Overall though, it was a nice book, well written and full of excellently developed characters. ( )
  nicola26 | Mar 30, 2013 |
A well-written, deftly researched, incredibly predictable novel about a young woman in Victorian London. Longer review later. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Mar 30, 2013 |
When we first meet Grace Parks, she is a fifteen-year-old girl living in 1861 London who is just about to deliver her first child out of wedlock. Grace is orphaned, and has had to look after her sister Lily since their mother passed away. They are both poor and living in the slums from hand to mouth, often going without food when they can't manage to sell enough watercress on the streets. Given she hasn't gotten enough money to feed and clothe herself and her sister, let alone a newborn baby, it is possibly an act of mercy when the midwife informs her that the baby was stillborn. Grace is of course devastated, and feeling sorry for her, the midwife tells her about a way in which her baby can find proper burial in a beautiful cemetery just outside London, instead of being thrown into a communal pauper's grave. While at the cemetery, Grace will meet two individuals who will play large roles in the Parks sisters' fortunes, in the persons of the kindly James Solent, a law clerk, and Mrs Unwin, the wife of one of London's most successful undertakers, who suggests to her she has the perfect face, solemn and tragic, to be employed as a mute, or a professional mourner, though Grace, quite put off, doesn't intend to take her up on the offer. Directly inspired by Dickens' tales—the great writer plays a small role in the novel—and therefore peopled with wonderfully wicked characters in the shape of the members of the Unwin clan, the novel follows the sisters as they are forced onto the London streets and have no choice but to turn to the villainous Unwins for sustenance, much as Grace dislikes the idea of making a living from the funeral industry. This line of business is about to get an incredible boost upon the death of Prince Consort Albert in December 1861, when Queen Victoria declares the nation to be in a state mourning. Probably written for a YA readership, but who cares? it's a great yarn and worth the detour. ( )
1 vote Smiler69 | May 2, 2012 |
Young adult historical novel.

This was an enjoyable young adult novel, set in Victorian Britain. It covered a number of fascinating topics, including the plight of London's cripplingly poor, class differences, and the mourning industry which was then at its hey-day.

Grace, who has become 'fallen' through no fault of her own, is making her way to Brookwood Cemetary in the opening scenes. She is carrying a bundle and is travelling on The Necropolis train. This was a train service that escorted London folk out of the city to a distant burial ground, established since the cholera epidemic had filled the cemetaries within London. At the cemetary she meets two characters who will prove crucial to the narrative - a pompous lady funeral director and a young lawyer's clerk.
Since Grace had been orphaned at a young age, she had been caring for her older, but somewhat 'simple' sister, Lily. Together, they lived in a crumbling appartment block in a very poor area of London and sold watercress on the streets to make a few pence. Unfortunately, circumstances left them homeless, shoeless and broke, and thus the scene is set for a slightly farcical adventure.

I thought the first part of the book was excellent, but wasn't so convinced by the 'goings-on' in the second half.
In spite of this, I did learn about the trade of mourning the dead in Victorian England and the book was well worth reading. There is also a brief section at the back of the book that explains some of the relevant historical background.
A great YA author, who I have read and enjoyed before. ( )
  DubaiReader | Apr 19, 2012 |
This is the story of Grace Parkes, and her simple-minded sister, Lily. Orphaned, they are now making their own way in the world after having to leave a training establishment when Grace found herself pregnant. In unfortunate circumstances, the sisters find themselves drawn into the world of Victorian mourning, working for the unscupulous Unwin family.

This is a nice enough book. It kept my interest and was just about the right length, and I liked the character of Grace, but ultimately it left me feeling a little flat. It was interesting to read about what a big business mourning was in the 19th century, and I particularly liked the little adverts or calling cards that appeared at the beginning of most of the chapters. However, the story contained some really ridiculous coincidences and the whole thing was quite predictable.

I imagine this book would appeal to young girls, and to be fair, that is who it is aimed at, but for me it was pleasant enough but nothing special. ( )
1 vote nicx27 | Apr 17, 2012 |
Grace and her sister Lily are orphans, trying to survive in the slums of Victorian London. Though Lily is older than Grace, Lily is (as they say) simple-minded, and Grace must take care of her. Through a series of pretty much unfortunate events, Grace finds herself working in the funeral trade as a mute, a professional mourner, while Lily has a position as a maid in her employers' home. Little do the girls know, their unscrupulous employers have their own reasons for taking them in.

This was a fairly good read. The author had done a lot of research about Victorian life, particularly Victorian mourning customs, and managed to incorporate it into the story without a lot of information dumps. I did find the conclusion of the story a little too fantastical, and a little too neatly tied up. I also thought Grace was not as well-developed a character as she could have been, and all of the secondary characters were pretty flat. Still, it was interesting enough to keep me reading, and it was a fast read -- if you are intrigued by the premise (as I was, after reading a review of it elsewhere), I'd say give it a try! ( )
1 vote foggidawn | Feb 28, 2012 |
Fallen Grace tells the story of Grace, and her sister Lily, trying to survive in Victorian London. It's a children's book, which I would say is aimed at young teens.

The setting is great, and really comes alive - Grace and Lily are part of the poorest groups in London, trying to survive day to day, mainly by selling watercress, and the stories of others are also shared, such as a young boy who can only leave the house when he can borrow his older brother's clothes. It really brings home how badly they lived, and the difference between the classes.

Victorian funerals are also explored, with the importance of the correct mourning etiquette - and the people who made money out of grief.

The setting, the historical background, and the characters are the good things about this book, which is unfortunately let down by it's plot. The 'twist' at the end was predictable from the beginning, and the villain's was far too convenient. Despite it being predictable, there was enough to make it enjoyable.
  michelle_bcf | Nov 19, 2011 |
Olin PZ7.H7683 Fal 2011
  coolmama | Oct 12, 2011 |
Junior Gothic fiction, with implausible plot coincidences and sanitised teen pregnancy - what's not to like ;-)?

Recommended for 11+ readers as a gentle intro to romantic historical fiction, though plot is a bit slow for those weaned on action/adventure fare. ( )
  celerydog | Jun 19, 2011 |
Reviewed by Cinnamon for TeensReadToo.com

Orphaned at a young age, Grace and Lily Parkes barely scrape by living off of the revenue from their watercress-selling operation. When Grace - barely sixteen herself - gives birth to a stillborn baby boy, she embarks on a train ride that causes her to crash head-on into two individuals who ultimately come to define the sisters' messy future.

And what a messy future it is, for the entirety of legal London is abuzz over Grace and Lily, two oblivious heiresses to a huge fortune left by their deceased father. A desperate race for the money ensues as the affluent families in London begin to plot for ways to take advantage of the Parkes sisters, and the trusting girls step right into these well-woven traps. Eventually, a boy will rescue one girl, and she will stop at nothing until her sister is by her side once again.

FALLEN GRACE is one of those novels you chew through slowly because of its meticulously and beautifully described setting. Ms. Hooper delivers a stunning portrayal of 17th century England, complete with opulent characters and an abundance of child beggars; even the King and Queen make a random appearance.

However, the plot turned out to be rather slow in the beginning. I kept waiting for the pacing to pick up: it never did. The entire book felt like an easy rambling walk - unhurried and enjoyable, until you get bored and decide to run like a maniac and feel the wind in your hair instead.

A nicely written novel nevertheless, FALLEN GRACE will appeal to avid readers of historical fiction. ( )
1 vote | GeniusJen | Jun 14, 2011 |
www.booksforcompany.com
I am not usually a fan of historical books but after reading Montacute House,which is also published by Bloomsbury, l definitely wanted to give Fallen Grace a go.
Fallen Grace is another book which is proving to me that l actually do enjoy historical books, not books with a lot of depth and explanation into the history but books with in depth characters and a good storyline which just so happens to be in past times. Fallen Grace is a great example of that.
Grace, the main character, is a character who you are straight away made to feel sorry for. Right at the beginning it takes you on a journey with Grace in which she loses her child who she then has to bury. Because of this very emotional beginning l quickly felt connected to Grace and wanted to help her. The story then continues with a quick pace, showing the reader how things were in the Victorian times alongside letting you get to know Grace and other characters.
When l first picked up Fallen Grace l was unsure if l liked how this was written as at a number of points l felt it was written from Graces point of view but then it suddenly went to someone else’s point of view. I felt this may have been why l didn’t enjoy the beginning as much but by the time l got halfway through the book l was used to this and actually seen it as an advantage due to being able to see things from more than Graces point of view.
As things unravelled l became gripped to this book and picked it up at any free minute l had. Even though l guessed a part of the ending half way through the book, l was still intrigued as to what Grace would actually do and there was so much more to the book than the thing l discovered.
Overall this is an emotional book which took me on a trip back in time in where l got to know the harsh conditions in which poor people had to live due in the Victorian era and how they were treated. I certainly feel very lucky to live in the 21st century where there is justice and equal rights.
  BooksforCompany | Jun 13, 2011 |
I’ll be honest, I thought I was going to enjoy this book a lot more then I actually had. I love reading historical based novels, but Fallen Grace was just to slow. Even towards the end of the book when everything is supposed to come together and all the questions are answered, I was bored.

I enjoyed learning about Victorian Era London and I learned a lot about the funeral business. I was not aware that so much went into a Victorian funeral. I knew about mourning clothes, but had no idea that rich people would hire “mutes”, girls who sat in the back (or the front) of the funeral and grieved. At the end of the book, Hooper added a “Historical Notes from the Author” section, which was really great! It helped me to understand the story a little more.

I liked the chemistry between the two sisters, Grace and Lily. They had so little, but they made it work because they had each other. Grace had a lot to deal with, and caring for her older, yet slower sister was hard, but she never complained, she just did what she had to do. I liked Grace’s character a lot. She was strong, smart, and brave.

Fallen Grace is told in the third person narrative. I didn’t think I was going to like that, but it worked perfectly and gave the story a little bit extra. ( )
  Krissy724 | Jun 6, 2011 |
Summary: Grace is only fifteen, but already her life is in shambles. She’s been raped, her subsequent baby perished, and she must look after her older sister who isn’t quite right in the head. To make things worse, Grace and her sister have just been forced out of their home, and being orphans, have nowhere to go. They find themselves working at a morgue to make ends meet, and quickly wind up in the midst of a swindling bigger than they could ever imagine.

My thoughts: Fallen Grace is a beautifully written historical novel. It is rich, well developed, and completely immersing. I haven’t read any of Mary Hooper’s other books, but if they are as well-researched and gorgeous as Fallen Grace, I’ll have to give them a read.

Mary Hooper expertly captures the late 1800’s woman in both Grace and Lily, her sister. They have delicate sensibilities, but are firm in their beliefs and strong for their time. I enjoyed how Grace was so responsible for a fifteen year old—I never would have been able to survive in her shoes. Lily, despite being “simple” is not too easily taken advantage of, and holds her own as an interesting sub-character.

Fallen Grace’s story reminded me a bit of Oliver Twist, what with Grace and Lily being poor orphans who end up working at a morgue and are eventually taken advantage of without their knowledge. However, I felt that Fallen Grace focused more on a girl’s perspective and journey, so it was unique enough to hold my interest. The sad situation Grace and Lily came from was quite shocking, and I couldn't help rooting for them to overcome their obstacles.

I’d recommend Fallen Grace to any fan of historical fiction; it takes a good look at the gritty side of the late 1800’s, and really puts things in perspective. I definitely enjoyed reading about the trials and triumphs of Grace and her sister. ( )
  renkellym | Mar 3, 2011 |
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. 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.
  StEdwardsCollege | Dec 3, 2010 |
Grace and her older sister Lily lost their mother at a young age, before that they had lost their father. Alone in the world the girls had been sent to an orphanage and when older to a workhouse, but now they were living on their own making what they could selling watercress in one of the poorest areas in London.

It had always been Grace's responsibility to look after Lily, who now almost seventeen was still as unable to care for herself as she was when a child. Grace and Lily had left the workhouse and all it's horrors behind them, or so they had thought until Grace could no longer deny what was to be the outcome of her short stay there. And so, grieved and emotional, Grace found herself at Brookwood Cemetery with two business cards placed into her hands.

When the worst came to worst and Grace and Lily were forced from their home, Grace determined not to see her sister or herself resorting to living in the streets. She tried unsuccessfully to contact Mr Solent, the man who had given her the first business card. When that had failed she reluctantly took up the second black edged business card. She had been offered a job once, working for a funeral business.

It was not a position Grace was comfortable with but the Unwin family had agreed to take in Lily also, and although the sisters were to be separated Grace was only pleased they would both have food, clothing and shelter for the quickly approaching winter. However unbeknownst to Grace, the Unwin's had motives of their own for taking in the young girls.

Fallen Grace is a historical novel depicting life in London for both the poor and the wealthy, discriminating against neither as a poor beggar on the streets could be as much a thief as the wealthy in their posh houses, or worse. Amongst death, grief and greed Grace shines as a strong and vulnerable character able to tell a story that is fast paced, well thought out and all her own. A story full of deceptive actions, heartbreaking decisions and, if she's lucky, happy endings. ( )
  LarissaBookGirl | Jun 7, 2010 |
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