Source: AudioGoUKGoodReads Summary: 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.
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With a run time of 7 hours, Kate Byers has done a brilliant job of narrating this audiobook, her voice truly brings to life the characters of Fallen Grace.
I was immediately drawn into Grace's world, as an orphan she not only has to provide for herself, but for her sister too. Despite all the the hardships and struggles she faces she never once complains. Determined, vulnerable, and wise beyond her years I easily became attached to Grace, rooting for her to get the life she so deserves.
Her sister, Lily, has the mind of a child and although she tries her best is taken advantage of on a number of occasional. I felt that this really emphasised how hard it must have been to live in such times.
The Unwin family run a funeral business, slyly manipulating grieving families into paying more than necessary for a fancy funeral and feeling no remorse about it at all. A truly wicked bunch.
Mary Hooper has done a wonderful job of portraying Victorian London in all its filth and splendor. At the start of each chapter there's snippets of newspaper ads and quotes from Dickens which help you imagine the way in which the rich live. Hooper paints a clear picture of the stark contrast between those living in poverty wearing rags and doing what they can to get by and those from the upper classes riding through Hyde Park in carriages wearing elegant clothes. Fallen Grace looks at both sides and gives a realistic and authentic look into the Victorian lifestyle.
It's obvious that Hooper did a lot of background research as I learned things I never knew before about London and the Victorian Era. For example I didn't know about the different mourning stages and the steam train that takes coffins to cemeteries outside the city. These little details really brought the story to life and helped capture the harsh reality of Victorian life.
Fallen Grace is a delightfully dark read that will sure to be a hit among YA historical fiction fans!