Velvet is a laundress in a Victorian steam laundry. With both her mother and father dead, she is an orphan and has to rely upon her own wits to make a living. The laundry is scalding, back-breaking work and Velvet is desperate to create a better life for herself. Then Velvet is noticed by Madame Savoya, a famed medium, who asks Velvet to come to work for her. Velvet is dazzled at first by the young yet beautifully dressed and bejewelled Madame. But soon Velvet realises that Madame Savoya is not all that she says she is, and Velvet's very life is in danger...
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Having read Mary Hooper's books before, I knew I'd probably love this but find a lot of faults with it. I eagerly read it anyway, as all of Mary's books are amazingly researched and the environments rich and easy to imagine. Mary's characters are very vivid too, I had no problem deciding on which actor each character looked like!
This particular novel is about the spiritualism craze between 1900 – 1901 and is of course, fantastically researched. I learnt some great things about the different tricks that mediums used to fool their audience into believing that there really was a spirit, formed out of ectoplasm, standing right in front of them.
The story takes a darker turn when Velvet visits a baby farm and learns of the true horrors of those farms. Velvet is quite an innocent character, despite being quite headstrong too. She falls in love too easily and is quick to believe explanations that anyone else be suspicious of, or see fault in. Things seemed too easy for Velvet, right at the beginning she's moved up in the world, then even further when she happens to get Madame Savoya's laundry. I highly doubt it would happen that easily and would have preferred Velvet to experience more hardship than the couple of nights on the streets, as this seemed very unrealistic, especially as there was a line of girls outside the laundry waiting for a job for days and days. I suppose that's a bit cruel of me!
In between Velvet's chapters, we see sessions between Madame Savoya and 'Mrs Lilac', 'Lady Blue' etc, and it quickly becomes clear that she's not as nice as she's making Velvet believe she is.
All the way through this book, I could see exactly what was going to happen at the end, and in a way I was surprised – but not in a good way. I guessed right but when I got to the ending, it cut off. I felt as if there could at least be another chapter, as the writing is quite big. Just as I was finally starting to love the story and I wanted to find out what would happen to Velvet afterwards, it just stopped. It's a real shame because I felt that the story was just starting to pick up. In a way it was almost like the story wasn't Velvet's but about Mediums and as soon as that part was over, there was no need to write anymore!
Received free from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review