Victorian England brings to mind horse-drawn coaches, giant hoop skirts and Charles Dickens-esque romantic adventures. In Fallen Grace, we are introduced to another couple of facets of Victorian times: the life of the absolutely downtrodden poor and the culture and customs of mourning and funerals.
When we meet Grace, she is on a miserable errand. She and her older (but clearly disabled) sister Lily are orphaned and very much on their own. Selling whatever they can manage on the streets is barely enough to feed themselves, and soon they find themselves desperate enough to do anything to stay out of the workhouse.
Grace is such a humble character, so clearly worn down by life for a 15-year-old — but gracious and protective of her sister. The time period is absolutely dripping from the pages; I felt like I was there. I really liked seeing both sides of the social ladder. Your heart just aches for all these poor people who were willing to work so hard if only there was work for them to do. The whole “mourning” enterprise and the economics of funerals, the show of it all, was fascinating. I also liked that each chapter began with a little snippet of newsprint or an advertisement from the era.
I guess I’m gushing. I just felt that this was a really interesting read from a different perspective than other young adult historical fiction I’ve picked up. Even without any kind of heady romantic storyline, this was a great read.
Rating: Mild. The main character gets pregnant from being raped and the sister is also raped. It’s not at all graphically described, however; it’s actually really tastefully related. It happened before the plot begins and is made clear without any real details. There is also vague talk of prostitution. For adults it would be a “None.”