Fallen Grace

  • Type: Books
  • By: Mary Hooper
  • Age Category: Teens
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Recommended by: Tom S.
  • ISBN/UPC: 9781599905648
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A professional mourner, circa 1861

Orphaned 15-year-old Grace must care for her developmentally disabled sister Lily while scratching out a tenuous living as a vegetable peddler on the streets of Victorian London.  But when Grace and her sister are thrown out of their ramshackle apartment building and forced to relocate, they have to find a new way to survive.  Grace’s tragically beautiful face lands her a job as a “mute” – a professional mourner – for a large but ethically shaky undertaking establishment.   Meanwhile, the owners of the funeral business concoct a plan to cheat Grace and Lily out of a sum of money that would secure the sisters’ future.

The author doesn’t spare on the painfully gritty details of life among London’s poor.  She makes  clear the reason why Victorian paupers usually preferred a life of near-starvation on the streets to the horrifying prospect of entering a workhouse.  Grace’s situation is even more dire because she is a “fallen woman”, having been impregnated by a rapist (which happens before the story begins and is not described).  The scene where she searches for a place to give birth and finally does so - in a squalid factory building - is brutal.

Not everything in this story is unremittingly bleak, however.  Grace encounters kind people as well as scoundrels, and some of the Dickensian plot twists are in her favor.  The tender relationship between Grace and Lily is heartwarming.  Furthermore, the reader learns a lot of fascinating detail about the Victorian funeral industry.

This is an engaging work of historical fiction with a believable protagonist.