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Review: Velvet by Mary Hooper

Velvet by Mary Hooper
Published by Bloomsbury
Challenge: BBC
Source: Review Copy

Rose 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 Rose is desperate to create a better life for herself. Then Rose is noticed by Madame X, a famed medium, who asks Rose to come to work for her. Rose is dazzled at first by the young yet beautifully dressed and bejewelled Madame. But soon Rose realises that Madame X is not all that she says she is, and Rose's very life is in danger ..

Velvet is one of those books which I love to read: Historical fiction which isn't weighty or dry with awesome characters I can relate to and an engaging storyline.

The thing I liked most about this book was the main character Velvet. She is a really interesting character and I enjoyed following her story from being an orphaned washer woman to become lady servant to one of the most prestigious mediums in the city. I loved how she was both quite streetwise in how she had had to look after herself and in the way she had lived since she had been on her own but also quite naive as well especially when it came to the the world of mediums. There were so many things in front of her eyes that just were quite right but she was so innocent in believing that she had been told that she didn't question the obvious things that were right in front of her for a long while.

The main focus of the story is the world of spiritualists and mediums and looks at how they made their business in the Victorian Era by conning people out of their money by playing on their weaknesses whilst they were grieving. I found it really fascinating and enjoyed finding out more about this world.

Another reason why I really liked this book was because it gave you a real sense of the history and was well researched. I am a big fan of historical fiction that gives the reader a real sense of period whilst not overburdening them with minor irrelevant details that do nothing more than make the story too weight and therefore a bit dry. This novel found that right balance and included some really interesting insights to Victorian society, using Old Bailey Records no less, which I did not really know anything about. The part I found most chilling was the bit where Velvet visits a baby farm which was absolutely horrific.

The storyline for this book was really compelling for all the reasons I have already mentioned but also because it was nice and pacey meaning I didn't have a moment to get bored. Definitely one of the books out of the massive pile I have read this summer which I will be recommending regularly to others and certainly an author I am keen to read more of.


serendipity_viv said…
I would happily sit and read anything Mary Hooper has written.
Susan Mann said…
This sounds great x
I passed up on reading this book and after reading your review, I think I made the wrong decision there. I just can't get over my hangups with historical fiction! :)
Great Review Kirsty! I cant wait to read this one!