Sunday, December 28, 2008
Review: The Tea Rose
The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
Reasons for reading: had been on the TBR list a while; Historical Fiction for Triple 8 Challenge
First line: "Polly Nichols, a Whitechapel whore, was profoundly grateful to gin."
Description: "East London, 1888-a city apart. A place of shadow and light where thieves, whores, and dreamers mingle, where children play in the cobbled streets by day and a killer stalks at night, where bright hopes meet the darkest truths. Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, Fiona Finnegan, a worker in a tea factory, hopes to own a shop one day, together with her lifelong love, Joe Bristow, a costermonger's son. With nothing but their faith in each other to spur them on, Fiona and Joe struggle, save, and sacrifice to achieve their dreams.
But Fiona's life is shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man take from her nearly everything-and everyone-she holds dear. Fearing her own death, she is forced to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit propels her rise from a modest West Side shop-front to the top of Manhattan's tea trade. But Fiona's old ghosts do not rest quietly, and to silence them, she must venture back to the London of her childhood, where a deadly confrontation with her past becomes the key to her future."
My thoughts: This was just my kind of book! Nice and long to sink your teeth into, an interesting historical setting, romance, rags-to-riches, revenge... Publishers Weekly sums it up well: "Donnelly indulges in delightfully straightforward storytelling in this comfortably overstuffed novel."
The tea industry and Jack the Ripper elements added even more interest (although the latter is pretty grisly). Fiona is a great character - spirited, resilient, smart and, of course, beautiful. The settings, from East London to Covent Garden to both the common and the glittering areas of New York City are really well drawn. A lot happens, but it doesn't get confusing and even though I knew that Joe and Fiona would eventually get together, I held my breath for them every time it seemed about to happen.
A super read, highly recommended. I've got the sequel, The Winter Rose, all queued up and I can't wait to start it!