The Fortunes of Grace Hammer by Sara Stockbridge

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The Fortunes of Grace Hammer by Sara Stockbridge

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This is a Victorian tale dealing with the uglier side of London. The reader is taken on a journey of love and revenge through the eyes of enigmatic Grace Hammer, one of its residents.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 288 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099520955

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The short prologue shares with the reader a childhood incident in the life of Grace Hammer. It had a dramatic effect on her and her life thereafter. She is a changed person. She's also driven. She grows into a desirable woman and turns men's heads wherever she goes. But she's also smart. Some would perhaps think at this point, why not go 'up west', bag a sugar-daddy and live in luxury for the rest of her days? But life is not as simple as that.

Grace does not think like other women. She's unconventional. She's her own woman. She is also a single mother with young children. They are all clothed beautifully and fed regularly. How does she do it? All is revealed as the story unfolds. A nice touch is the fact that Grace all the while seems to rub shoulders with not only unsavoury characters but also dangerous ones, on a very regular basis.

Stockbridge has an easy style of storytelling and she gives the reader some lovely images which embellish her novel. Grace is given many fine descriptions throughout, but one which stood out for me was that of her physical appearance. Her assets are not racked up underneath her chin, east and west, as if in a window-box, like every other pair there. I immediately thought of the many 'bonnet' television dramas where the women's bosoms are always alarmingly uplifted.

I took to Grace's young daughter, Daisy straight away. She seemed to get all the best lines. She's just the right side of precocious and she's also as bright as a button. Very surprisingly, she can also read. There are some nods to Dickens here. I also had a sense of deja vu in other parts of the novel too and I would have to say that the plot is not the strongest element here. Instead, the fluid style and creative descriptions carry it along nicely. In fact, the sentence constructions are charming and totally in keeping with the Victorian era.

As a resident of south London, Stockbridge's knowledge of the area is put to good use. Various well-known landmarks are described as seen through the eyes of the Hammer children. Their eyes are often like dinner plates. This all makes for some charming and funny dialogue. When they venture out into the countryside, this is all even more pronounced. For instance, the children honestly believe that there are bears and wolves roaming wild.

The reader is also given the sharp contrast between the well-heeled and the poor and destitute of London. This slice of potted history works well. Some of the characters, both male and female, are usually of a devious nature. I feel that I have met some of them before, courtesy on one Mr Charles Dickens but somehow I didn't mind at all. Stockbridge chooses to give some suitable names to these unsavoury characters which adds a playful element.

Even amongst all the filth and desperation of the East End, this book is essentially to be read lightly. I concur with the blurb on the back cover which suggests that this book is an enjoyable romp through 19th century Whitechapel.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

if this book appeals then you might also enjoy The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale.

Buy The Fortunes of Grace Hammer by Sara Stockbridge at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Fortunes of Grace Hammer by Sara Stockbridge at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Fortunes of Grace Hammer by Sara Stockbridge at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Fortunes of Grace Hammer by Sara Stockbridge at Amazon.com.


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