Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Disgrace of Kitty Grey - Mary Hooper

I will hold my hands up and say that Mary Hooper is one of the best historical fiction novelists for children/teenagers. Actually, Mary Hooper is the author that got me into the genre - and Young Adult books in general - after I read her book The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose set during the 1700's. I guess, it opened my eyes to the best books of that genre. Furthermore, I actually met Mary Hooper a couple of years ago (that was a surreal moment with her sitting next to Patrick Ness), where I handed her my dog-earred copy of Eliza Rose, smiling broadly and then having a long conversation with her about how much I loved her books. I think she also asked some advice on something in one of her books if I remember correctly.
Anyway, I was so happy to hear that Mary Hooper would be releasing another book this year and even more happy when I discovered it available on Netgalley.

Synopsis: 15 year-old Kitty Grey lives happily in the countryside working as a dairy maid in the dairy of a rich, grand family. She is treated well and loves her job. There's also her sweetheart, Will, the river man, who she sees regularly. The only worry on her mind is whether, and when, he will ask her to marry him.
Suddenly, one day, Will disappears leaving his young orphaned sister, Betsy, with Kitty. Kitty is distraught, was he leading her on? Has he gone to London to find his fortune?
When Kitty is given the chance to go to London to get a copy of the new Pride and Prejudice, she goes with the chance of finding Will. But London is very different from the countryside and soon, Kitty is left penniless, alone with a three year-old who everyone thinks is her own, in a town she doesn't understand or belong within. And so charts her fall from grace.

Review: I entered this novel with high expectations to say the least. Mary Hooper is a favourite author of mine and I was worried that the things I loved in her books when I was younger would be different now I'm older. But I didn't have to worry as I was faced with a beautiful, rich and detailed historical novel from Hooper which stayed with me once again after the last page.

This is an interesting subject and something that isn't particularly shown in many historical novels. While we're always shown the glittering, glamourous worlds of the rich in the 1800's, Hooper changes that and displays the simple things that disgrace an innocent person because of the unfair judicial system, something reflected perhaps in present day. The blurb for the book gave the impression to me that I would find out about that glittering world that we associate with Jane Austen of balls, muslin dresses, Mr Darcy (or just Colin Firth) and manners. But that is completely turned on its heard in this book and the contrast between the two classes becomes all that much clearer as the novel progresses.

Kitty is an interesting character. It is very clear from the beginning that she is quite naive as she's always lived in the idealic countryside in the same comfortable house in the same job which she loves. Her headstrong side of her character only comes evident at the start of her disgrace and she continues to be a good narrator. The disgrace made me incredibly sympathetic for her especially as things get worse and worse. I found Betsy on the other hand one of the most annoying characters I've read and it seemed to me that her role in the narrative at the beginning was unnecessary. She was just a little bit too whiny for my liking!

The writing was excellent as always and Hooper successfully illustrates each stage of the disgrace. It's wonderfully detailed historically and you get a real idea of the ideal setting of the countryside compared to the hustle and chaotic feeling of London. This was such an easy read for me, the perfect book to spend an afternoon or evening reading. However, the book is pretty depressing following how Kitty becomes less and less civilised and further away from her innocence, it's not a book to make you feel better about yourself! The beginning and end were good, and rather engaging, it was just the middle section which dragged a little because of how sad and depressing it was really. The ending is perfect for the book, although it does end a little abruptly for my liking.

Overall, this was another great novel from Mary Hooper, a master at historical fiction. This wasn't my favourite ever book of hers but it certainly reminded me why I love her books so much. THE DISGRACE OF KITTY GREY is great, an alternate read to other books set in this time. Can't wait for what Hooper will throw at us next! If you haven't read anything by her, you've been missing out! I highly recommend any of her books.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to review this book. 

Author's Website:
Pages: 288
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Challenges: Historical Fiction, BBC

Related Reviews: 
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
I was Jane Austen's Best Friend - Cora Harrison
Debutantes - Cora Harrison
Fallen Grace - Mary Hooper

1 comment:

  1. Oh my days, I love Mary Hooper! Have you read The Fever and The Flame? This book sounds amazing, it's been a while since I've read a great historical fiction so thanks for the fab review :D


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