Barefoot on Baker Street by Charlotte Anne Walters
|Barefoot on Baker Street by Charlotte Anne Walters|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: Orphan 'Red' has had a very tough start in life - in the workhouse, no less. But along with her friend Jude she escapes and adventure upon adventure awaits them out in the harsh world.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 380||Date: September 2011|
|Publisher: MX Publishing|
|External links: Author's website|
I must admit that I think the title a little cheeky, a little too near the bone as far as the iconic Baker Street and equally iconic Sherlock Holmes is concerned. The sepia front cover suggests a rather sugary, romantic read so I wasn't off to the best of starts.
Written in the first person by Red (a rather pretentious name, to my mind) and a name which started to annoy me rather quickly. She is mentioned on almost every page, in almost every paragraph. Red knew little about her parents, her background and where she came from. She doesn't even know her birth date. The story is placed around the 1870s where Victorian England is undergoing many changes. London is a bustling, teeming city.
Red is brought up (well, dragged up really) in the workhouse along with its very strict rules. Overcrowding, poor and inadequate food and forced labour are the norm. But the young Red seems to have few complaints as By the time I reached puberty, my labours had provided me with a strong and powerful body ... For me, Walters gets a little too Mills & Boon-ish. For example, Red had hair which hung in perfect curls, soft, tight and luxuriously thick ... All this despite the dreadful conditions, I'm thinking - hmm. There's more. ... my complexion was flawless ... I had striking icy blue eyes ... long, thick lashes. My cheek bones were high and my lips had developed into a perfect Cupid's bow.
We're given a taste of the unacceptable workhouse conditions. Red is raped. As the sweaty and grotesque figure lying heavily upon me began to grunt and snore, I summoned all my strength to push him aside and struggle free from his bulk. With such unlikely scenarios I was fast going off this book. Other children are also raped by the officials, the guardians and they all seem to be fat, stinking, older men. But despite all this, Red remains both upbeat and defiant. One day she sees her chance of escape and takes it, along with a young boy she has befriended called Jude.
I found Walters writing style to lack conviction, plausibility and sparkle. Sentences were often bogged down with far too many unnecessary adjectives and adverbs and she also had a bad habit of well, stating the bleedin' obvious as in 'We stood for a few seconds, holding hands like the children that we were, then ran furiously ... We know that they are children. And as for that word furiously well, it just makes me, furious, to be frank. Here's another leaden sentence - I ran away as fast as my legs would carry me. The whole feel of the book is rather dull and plodding.
The fearless, powerful, impossibly beautiful Red along with her friend Jude need to eat now that they are free agents. So Red decides on a life on crime, both violent and non-violent to get by. She's soon in charge of a local gang (after seeing off their leader) and once again, I found this unlikely. Then one day, there's a chance encounter with the great and gifted Sherlock Holmes. Up till now Red has had no feelings for the opposite sex. But suddenly this all changes - she becomes a gushing, red-faced teenager. Their paths will cross many times throughout the story.
Altogether a rather cobbled-together feel to this book and in parts, far too unlikely (yes, even within the scope of fiction). Coupled with Walters' in my opinion, dull narrative voice, a less-than-average read, for me.
If the idea of this book appeals to you then you might enjoy A Study in Crimson by Molly Carr
You can read more book reviews or buy Barefoot on Baker Street by Charlotte Anne Walters at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Barefoot on Baker Street by Charlotte Anne Walters at Amazon.com.
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