Book Review: The Quietness by Alison Rattle
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. THE QUIETNESS is a novel of friendship and trust in the darkest of settings (from Goodreads.com)
I love a Victorian historical novel, and Mary Hooper is an author I enjoy very much. Sounding incredibly similar, this book really appealed to me.
The Quietness follows two girls from seemingly opposite ends of Victorian society. Ellen is the daughter of a prominent surgeon, while Queenie's drunken father sells fruit while he's on the wagon and her mother sells her body when he's fallen off, to feed her children. What's interesting is that first appearances aren't always as they seem, and I was surprised by where my pity lay.
This is a pretty dark tale, covering subjects such as prostitution, rape and the horrific Victorian practice of baby farming. I found the dual narrative and short snappy chapters made this a fast paced, easy read which I finished in a couple of sittings. However, I found it a bit predictable, if I'm honest, and the characters quite clichéd and stereotypical. I was particularly disappointed in Queenie's character, and she didn't gain my sympathy or understanding the way she should have. I guessed the major twist very early on, however there was another thrown in right at the end which did leave me reeling.
I wanted to love this book more than I actually did. That's not to say it's a bad book, it's not at all and the author certainly shows promise and will be one I look out for in the future. If you're a fan of Mary Hooper and Eve Edwards, there's a good chance you'll enjoy this one too.
Published March 2013 by Hot Key Books (UK)