Review of At the Sign of the Sugared Plum by Mary Hooper

It is 1665 and Hannah is full of excitement at the prospect of her first trip to London. She is going to help her sister, Sarah, in her candy shop, 'The Sugared Plum'. But Hannah does not get the welcoming reception she expected from her sister, because the Plague is taking hold of London. However, Hannah is determined to stay and together the two young women face the worst-with the possibility of their own demise, growing ever closer. But through it all they persevere with the support of their neighbors and each other. And at last, they find hope in a daring attempt to escape the city.

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At the Sign of the Sugared Plum is a very quick read about a young girl's experiences in London, during the Plague. It's told in the usual Mary Hooper fashion, a lot of attention to detail with a very rich, vivid storyline and a very likeable heroine.

Hannah did annoy me at first because she was a very stereotypical, 'fresh from the country' girl, she's very naive and the only things on her mind are getting rid of her freckles and the latest fashions. However, after seeing all the horrors of the Plague - Plague pits, dead and dying lying in the street and being trapped in London - only people with signed papers stating they're healthy can leave, and they aren't cheap - Hannah starts to see how the world really is and she starts to be more like her sister, despite still having a weakness for the latest fashions!

The cover is an eye-catching one too - if you look closely at Hannah's eye you can see a skull in it, which I find pretty creepy! There's also a newspaper style background with larger words like 'Plague' and 'Prayers' really standing out. It's a brilliant cover.

As I said, the storytelling is magical. There's enough gruesome detail to really get a picture of what it was like there (I swear I smelt a house full of rotting bodies at one point) but not so much that you'd want to hide it from your 13 year old sister. A perfect balance really!

I would have liked the book to have been longer so we could have found out what happened afterwards with some of the characters and I'm not sure why this wasn't done, after all, the book is only 163 pages long so another chapter shouldn't have hurt?

Review Update: Since writing this review I've learnt that there is a sequel, Petals in the Ashes, which I'll be reviewing somewhere...

5/5

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