Today Sarah reviews Velvet, by our author in residence, Mary Hooper, and we have 5 copies up for grabs!
Velvet – Mary Hooper
Velvet is a laundress in a Victorian steam laundry. With both her mother and father dead, she is an orphan and has to rely upon her own wits to make a living. The laundry is scalding, back-breaking work and Velvet is desperate to create a better life for herself. Then Velvet is noticed by Madame Savoya, a famed medium, who asks Velvet to come to work for her. Velvet is dazzled at first by the young yet beautifully dressed and bejewelled Madame. But soon Velvet realises that Madame Savoya is not all that she says she is, and Velvet’s very life is in danger …
After reading Fallen Grace earlier in the year, I was very excited about reading Mary Hooper’s latest novel Velvet.
Set in Victorian and Edwardian London, Velvet follows the story of an orphaned laundry girl who is taken under the wings of a mysterious medium; Madame Savoya. At first, Velvet is in awe of her new luxurious surroundings and Madame Savoya’s generosity. However, Velvet’s suspicions are aroused when the Medium profession in London becomes under intense scrutiny from officials and police.
Velvet is an excellent heroine, she is both young and brave, but streetwise at the same time. The majority story is told in the first person from Velvet’s point of view and we see how she is determined to make her own way in life, which I thought was similar to the character of Grace in Fallen Grace.
Madame Savoya is an interesting character; charming and beautiful she seemed too me like one of those people who is just too good to be true. The way that the story is structured with some chapters devoted only to Madame Savoya’s medium sessions gives us an insight into parts of her character and her profession that Velvet does not see. I also think this shows the reader that perhaps Velvet’s employer is not quite what she shows herself to be.
Mary Hooper’s description of London at this time is remarkable and so evocative. I enjoy reading her books very much and if you like historical fiction then Velvet will not disappoint. This is a fantastic book that is easy to read and even easier to become totally engrossed in!
I was fascinated by this book as I knew very little of Mediums and how popular they were in Victorian and Edwardian London. I was also shocked to read about the Baby Farming in the story, as again this is something that I knew nothing at all about. Hooper’s addition about her historical research at the end of book was very informative and an excellent addition to the story.
Thanks, Sarah! Bloomsbury Children’s Books have kindly given us 5 copies of Velvet to giveaway, so to be entered into the draw, comment on this post or retweet it. We’ll pick 5 winners at 7pm on Sunday (UK only), so good luck!
Today we ask put our questions to our author in residence, Mary Hooper….
Tell us a little about yourself
I live about 30 miles outside London, so not too far when I have to do research (inevitably in London). I have a husband and a cat, two little grandchildren, drive a Beetle.
Of the many books you’ve written, do you have favourites or favourite characters, and if so, what and who?!
I am very fond of Eliza Rose, because I had such fun writing that book, and it still makes me cry when I get to the end. Come to think of it, though, I love all my heroines – they are all a lot braver than I could ever be.
How do you come up with your plots and characters?
This is another version of that question that all writers dread: “Where do you get your ideas from?” It is almost impossible to say where stuff comes from. Sometimes you make it up, sometimes you copy things, sometimes you read something and it sets off a chain reaction. It usually starts with the author thinking, “What if…?”
What is it you most enjoy about writing historical novels?
I like finding out things (writers are always nosy) and I think things that happened a couple of hundred years ago are so much more fascinating than modern stuff. Well, don’t you think that Highwaymen, Midwives, Plague, Funerals and Frost Fairs are much more compelling than websites, Twitter, Blackberries, i-tunes and texting?
Tell us about Velvet
The year is 1900 and Velvet works as a laundress in a great big old steam laundry. Following an accident, she is selected by Madame Savoya, a medium (someone who purports to talk to spirits) to go and work at her luxurious house. Madame and her assistant, George, are kindness itself and Velvet immediately falls for the good-looking George. But is all as it seems…?
What are you working on at the moment?
A book set in 1813 – Regency time – but not with fops and dandies, tea dances and polite society taking the waters, but much more about the dark side: the difficult lives that ordinary people led.
When you’re not writing, what do you love to do?
Read, see friends, eat out, swim in the sea. And oh, I have just bought an inflatable canoe and have been paddling up and down the Thames. Have only fallen in twice so far…
Thanks, Mary! You can find out more about Mary and her books here. Look out for our review of Velvet coming soon, along with a giveaway…
We’re happy to have Mary Hooper in residence with us this month, and so today we’re talking about her new book, Velvet, available to buy today!
Velvet by Mary Hooper
Velvet is a laundress in a steam laundry. With both her mother and father dead, she is an orphan and has to rely upon her own wits to make a living. The laundry is scalding, back-breaking work and Velvet is desperate to create a better life for herself. Then Velvet is noticed by Madame Savoya, a famed medium, who asks Velvet to come to work for her. At first, Velvet is dazzled by the young, beautifully dressed and bejewelled Madame. But soon Velvet realises that Madame Savoya is not all that she says she is, and Velvet’s very life is in danger . . .
Bloomsbury have kindly provided us with an extract of the first chapter for you to read and enjoy here now! Velvet chapter 1. We’ll be bringing you our review of Velvet soon, along with a giveaway!
Mary is taking part in a blog tour kicking off at Wondrous Reads today, so be sure to check that out.
It’s already September! That means we say goodbye to Stephanie Burgis and hello to Mary Hooper - welcome Mary!! We’ll soon be bringing you our Q&A with Mary, an extract and review of her new book, Velvet, and a giveaway! Watch this space…
In the meantime, Mary shares with us her favourite children’s books…
BECKY BANANAS – THIS IS YOUR LIFE By Jean Ure
The second title in Jean Ure’s acclaimed series of humorous, delightful and poignant stories written in the form of diaries and letters which make them immediately accessible to children. Becky Bananas is eleven years, nine months, three days and fourteen hours old and her great ambitions are: /To visit the world-famous Wonderland theme park /To star on the TV programme This Is Your Life /To become a famous dancer /And to be twelve A poignant and heartwarming story of Becky Bananas, who has leukaemia.
About an eleven year old girl who has leukaemia. Not in the least bit schmaltzy or sentimental, and not depressing either, but life-affirming, funny, poignant and real.
A NEST OF VIPERS By Catherine Johnson
Cato Hopkins is the youngest member of Mother Hopkins’s ‘family’ – a group of skilled fraudsters and pickpockets. There’s Addy, who can become a very convincing boy when she needs to; the beautiful Bella, who can charm any rich young man out of his fortune; Sam, an escaped slave and Cato himself, a young boy, who Mother Hopkins has taught everything she knows. But old age is slowing Mother Hopkins down, and she wants to carry out one last con, a con to outdo all the cons that have gone before. And so the gang set about bringing ruin upon Captain Walker, a proud and cruel slave captain, who deserves to be taught a lesson or two . . .
A thrilling story about Cato, boy criminal, the youngest member of an 18th Century street gang in London, who together set about bringing about the downfall of a cruel and arrogant slave captain.
VOYAGE By Adele Geras
A group of young Russian Jews emigrate to America in 1904.
The beautifully written story of a group of young Russian Jews who emigrated to the US in 1904. The characters beguile and the unusual subject fascinates from the very first page.
CATCALL By Linda Newbury
It’s a time of change for Josh. He has a relatively new stepdad and a brand new baby sister. But for Josh’s younger brother, Jamie, the family upheaval has deeply disturbing consequences: he refuses to speak, and after a vivid, frightening dream develops an obsession with wild cats. With his parents so preoccupied, it’s up to Josh – who’s always been the quiet one – to keep the family together and find a cure for his brother’s strange behaviour. And in helping Jamie to recover his voice, Josh discovers an unexpectedly resonant one of his own.
Take two young boys, a broken family, plus stepfather and new baby sister. And then add a very unusual occurrence and watch the tension build. A story told with insight and humour.
JUST WILLIAM by Richmal Crompton
There is only one Just William. The loveable imp has been harassing his unfortunate family and delighting hundreds of thousands of readers for years.
An old-fashioned setting (1930/40s), but that’s part of the enjoyment. My top tip for lifting the spirits at any age. If you enjoy a giggle, then you’ll love the William books.
Thanks, Mary! You can check out Mary’s website here and find out more…
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.
Fallen Grace is a fantastic historical novel. The descriptions and imagery delivered by Mary Hooper make the reader feel that they have been transported back to the streets of Dickensian London.
After reading the blurb on the back of the book I had been a bit worried that it may be morbid, but it wasn’t at all.
The story follows the lives of Grace Parkes and her sister Lily. Orphaned and having fallen on hard times, they find themselves having to sell watercress in order to survive. The date is 1861 and Grace has to perform perhaps the hardest task that will ever fall upon a woman. With little money she purchases a third class ticket on the Necropolis railway from London Waterloo to Brookwood cemetery. It is here that her life will change forever, for Grace catches the eye of Mrs. Unwin stalwart of the Unwin family and their funeral business empire. At times it seems that Grace and Lily’s luck has run out forever.
Grace is perhaps the ultimate heroine, young and fragile yet determined and strong, she will stop at nothing to protect her sister. The two Parkes’ sisters endure a great deal before they fall into the hands of the Unwin’s in hope of protection. However, it is here that things begin to go amiss and the true reason that the Unwin’s seek to employ them shows through.
There is so much attention to detail in this novel, the Necropolis railway, the Victorian obsession with mourning and even the slum clearances in London were things that I knew little about before. I felt that the characters were so clear; it was almost as if I knew them. With a spectacular ending and a lot of surprises on the way this has got to be one of the best books to be released this year.
Wow, thanks, Sarah – sounds brilliant! Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sending us a copy. It’s here for you to buy now…