Fallen Grace

Fallen Grace

4.2 8
by Mary Hooper

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Life has been nothing but unfair to Grace Parkes and her sister. Penniless, the two orphans manage to stay alive-but only barely, like so many on the streets of Victorian London. And Grace must bear a greater heartbreak, having become pregnant from terrible circumstances and then given birth to a stillborn baby. But the infant's death sets Grace on a new path,

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Life has been nothing but unfair to Grace Parkes and her sister. Penniless, the two orphans manage to stay alive-but only barely, like so many on the streets of Victorian London. And Grace must bear a greater heartbreak, having become pregnant from terrible circumstances and then given birth to a stillborn baby. But the infant's death sets Grace on a new path, bringing her into contact with people who hold both riches and power. A great fraud has been perpetrated on young Grace and her sister, and they are the secret recipients of a most unusual legacy-if only they can find the means to claim it. Mary Hooper's latest offers Dickensian social commentary, as well as malicious fraud, mysterious secrets, and a riveting read.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It is 1861 London, and 15-year-old Grace, who cares for her childlike older sister, Lily, is on a funeral train to give a dignified burial to Grace's stillborn baby, which was conceived after she was raped. Grace and Lily are in dire financial circumstances—their mother is dead and their father left before Grace was born to seek his fortune in the Americas—and they make ends meet by selling watercress. But Grace's train ride brings her into contact with a series of characters—including a wealthy and corrupt family of undertakers, who Grace and her sister come to work for, and a handsome young lawyer—that dramatically change her fate. There's a Dickensian quality to Hooper's (Newes from the Dead) story (the man himself makes a brief appearance); that which seems random is in fact meticulously planned, and nothing, not even the bundle in Grace's arms, is as it seems. And though Hooper's period descriptions, while evocative, can slow the story at times, readers will be engaged by the twists, turns, and deceits of Grace's rags-to-riches story. Ages 14–up. (Feb.)
VOYA - Elizabeth Norton
Fallen Grace opens as sixteen-year-old Grace, an orphan living in Victorian London, slips the body of her stillborn child into another person's coffin. Grace became pregnant after being raped at a training center for poor young women, and she cannot afford a funeral. At the cemetery, she meets the wife of an undertaker who offers her work as a funeral mute. At first Grace refuses, but she finally accepts as things become increasingly desperate for her and her "simple-minded" sister, Lily. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the sisters, a London law firm is seeking them out because their father has died abroad and left them a fortune, and Grace's new employer is attempting to swindle them out of their inheritance. Hooper's novel has a very strong sense of place and a dark, Dickensian feel. Descriptions of the living conditions of the poor are especially vivid. The author does not, however, adequately portray the trauma of rape and of losing a child. Though it is sometimes difficult to keep the large cast of characters straight, Grace and Lily are sympathetic heroines and most of the characters are well developed. The plot has enough twists and turns to keep the reader turning the pages and the conclusion, although slightly predictable, is satisfying. An author's note adds historical context and explains key points of the story, such as Victorian mourning customs. This book will require hand selling, but may appeal to fans of historical fiction. Reviewer: Elizabeth Norton
Children's Literature - Veronica Bartles
Sixteen-year-old Grace Parkes and her sister, Lily, are orphans, trying to eke out a living selling small bunches of watercress on the streets of 1860s London. When they come home one day to find the boarding house they have been staying in all boarded up and condemned, they have few options left. Refusing to return to the workhouse, where both sisters had been abused, they turn to the only hope they have left: a shady, money-grubbing family of undertakers who agree to employ the sisters for only a shilling a week, plus room and board. Grace and Lily don't know that their father earned a substantial fortune before he died overseas. Their names are well known among legal circles in London, as the lawyers handling Mr. Parkes' estate search for his heirs, and the girls could inherit great wealth, if they only knew to step forward and claim it. In the style of Charles Dickens' classic tales, Hooper paints a captivating picture of the poverty-stricken working class of Victorian England. Anyone who enjoys Dickens' works is sure to find joy in reading about the Parkes sisters. Reviewer: Veronica Bartles
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Grace, 15, and her mentally slow sister, Lily, 17, have next to nothing. Their mother is dead, and their father left to try to make his fortune in America before Grace was born. They live in a small, shabby boardinghouse and barely sustain themselves by selling watercress on the streets of London. The girls had lived in a home where Grace was being trained as a teacher until she was raped and became pregnant. When the child is stillborn, she must find a way to make sure he is given a proper burial. At the cemetery, she makes the acquaintance of a woman whose family is in the funeral business and, because of Grace's countenance, she offers her a job as a "professional mourner." Thus begins Grace's new life. But not all is what it seems, and the unraveling of lies opens up a new world for the girls. There are only two flaws in this otherwise well-crafted and readable novel: Hooper fails to adequately capture the heartbreak of the loss of a child and, as such, the characterization of Grace falls short. Also, the optimistic ending is contrary to the actuality of the sisters' social situation, and is the only part of the book that feels unrealistic. Otherwise, the clear, descriptive prose beautifully captures the crushing realities of the poor in the 19th century. A compelling read with a Dickensian feel.—Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO
Kirkus Reviews

In the years since their mother's death, Grace Parkes, 16, and her developmentally disabled sister, Lily, 17, have struggled to survive on their own in Victorian London. While surreptitiously depositing her stillborn child, conceived under horrific circumstances, at a cemetery, Grace is offered employment as a "mute" (hired mourner) in the Unwin family's booming funeral business. Desperation soon forces her to take the job, although it means separation from Lily, who is sent to be a maid at the Unwin residence. The crooked, opportunistic Unwins have their fingers in many pies, and when they discover that Lily is heiress to a fortune, they plot to obtain it for themselves. When Lily disappears, it's up to Grace—armed only with wits, beauty and a chance meeting with a young law clerk—to find her sister and claim their inheritance. Hooper, author of many historical novels, packs her brisk Dickensian fable with colorful characters and suspenseful, satisfying plot twists. The sobering realities of child poverty and exploitation are vividly conveyed, along with fascinating details of the Victorian funeral trade. (historical note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Amanda Foreman
Hooper writes in beautiful 19th-century cadences, but her story lines pack a 21st-century punch. Nothing feels forced or inserted for mere shock value. Fallen Grace has been impeccably researched, and it shows in every paragraph. There is even an appendix with five historical essays and a bibliography for readers interested in learning more about the era. It should come as no surprise to Hooper's fans that Fallen Grace has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal, Britain's equivalent of the Newbery; this is historical fiction worthy of the genre.
—The New York Times

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Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.20(d)
1130L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

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