Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Quietness by Alison Rattle

Pages - 278
Published in March by Hot Key Books
It was  a wet day. The rain had turned the roads to sludge. Everyone unlucky enough to be out on the streets hurried past Queenie, without glancing at the heap of fruit she'd polished to gleaming on her skirts. No matter how hard she shouted, 'PENNY A LOT, FINE RUSSETS!' or, 'EIGHT A PENNY, STUNNING PEARS!'
Goodreads Summary
When fifteen-year-old Queenie escapes from the squalid slums of nineteenth-century London, she has no idea about the dangers of the dark world she is about to become embroiled in. Initially thrilled at being taken on as a maid for the seemingly respectable Waters sisters, Queenie comes to realise that something is very wrong with the dozens of strangely silent babies being 'adopted' into the household.
Meanwhile, lonely and unloved sixteen-year-old Ellen is delighted when her handsome and charming young cousin Jacob is sent to live with her family. She thinks she has finally found a man to fall in love with and rely on, but when Jacob cruelly betrays her she finds herself once again at the mercy of her cold-hearted father. Soon the girls' lives become irrevocably entwined in this tension-filled drama.
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Told from two perspectives in first and third person, this book portrays a very dark and realistic image of Victorian London. The two main characters, Queenie and Ellen’s are the complete opposite of each other and yet each suffers in their own way. The author takes both extremes and skilfully blends them together.
Queenie’s life is extremely hard. To have to fight for every morsel of food on a daily basis must have been indescribable. Yet she was loved. She came from a family that cared, even if they sometimes went off the rail. However, Queenie is oblivious to the love that surrounds her; she is too consumed by her need to escape poverty to see it.
On the other hand, Ellen has everything money could buy; however money can’t buy the thing you need most in life – love. The clinical coldness of her father sent shivers down my spine. He really was a boneless creature. His unhealthy interest in the workings of his daughter’s body was extremely weird. Ellen’s life was cold and lonely and I just wanted to hug her.
Queenie and Ellen are such wonderful characters, with strong convictions and lots of emotion. Through every sadness they suffered, you felt every bit of it through the author’s narrative. During the birth scene, I felt the strong emotions that bound the mother and child, an excellent example of the writer’s ability to portray realistic emotions through her words.
The story unravels delicately as we gradually learn more about the two girls. Surprises will occur naturally within the plot as you lose yourself in the story. The chapters are quite short and you find yourself reading the book very quickly, eager to find out what happens next to each character.
The descriptions of Victorian London are vivid, yet brutal and honest. The author has taken the historical information and breathed life into it, make it real and easy to imagine. I could easily see this book being televised.
I really loved this book, even though it did make me cry at the end. A stunning portrayal of hidden history that needs to be told.

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