Mary Hooper enjoys death and coffins and the like. At least, that’s how it seems. And Mary admitted to a fascination for graveyards the other week at Sefton Super Reads.
Her book Fallen Grace has been sitting on the top level of books to be read for a year. Or more. The Sefton event just spurred me on that little bit. Fallen Grace was never in danger of being relegated, as sometimes happens to books. But strangely enough, despite me having had a firm idea of what it was about all this time, once I started reading it turned out to be quite a different story.
Grace and her sister Lily have been orphaned a long time, and they live on their own, managing to survive, but only just. Set in London in 1861, life is grim for poor people. At the beginning of the book Grace is trying to bury her dead newborn baby as decently as possible. That means putting the dead baby in the coffin of someone well-off, to avoid a pauper’s burial.
Things go badly for the girls, and then slightly better, until at last life is so bad they don’t know what to do, and Grace takes them to seek work with the undertaker she met when her baby died. This provides food for them to eat, but ultimately leads to even more problems.
It’s an exciting read and and an educational one as well. You learn a lot about life 150 years ago. There is just the right mix of adventure, romance and skulduggery. I feel perhaps that the way everything ties together is a little too much of a coincidence. But then again, why not?
This was my second read in a limited period of time on the subject of ‘mourning emporiums’, so I suppose it really is the case that several writers can suddenly be struck by the same inspiration. Wasting vast sums of money on funerals strikes me as outrageous, and hiring someone to look sad for you seems particularly strange. But it’s what people did.
And it’s always fun meeting Queen Victoria. I tend to forget how young poor Albert was when he died. And how long his Queen had on her own.