Saturday, December 22, 2012


VelvetHooper, Mary. Velvet.
13 November 2012, Bloomsbury USA

After the drowning death of her abusive father, Kitty reinvents herself as "Velvet" in early 1900s London and gets a job as a laundress at Ruffold's Steam Laundry. After fainting several times from the heat, she gets moved into personal laundry because she is literate and a hard worker. She eventually has the alluring Madame Savoya as a client, and gets to meet her when Madame sends two tickets to her public performance as a psychic. Velvet is enthralled, and when Madame intervenes with Ruffold's after Velvet ruins a blouse, she's thrilled to go work as a personal assistant for Madame. She gets drawn into a strange world of raising spirits to talk to those who miss them after their death, and learns to enjoy the rarefied world of luxury that Madame provides. She keeps in contact with another laundress, Lizzie, as well as Charlie, a childhood friend who has become a policeman and would like to marry Velvet, who is more enamored of the gorgeous and mysterious George, Madame's assistant. When Velvet finds out that the spiritual world of the mediums is not exactly as it appears to be, will she be able to leave Madame's employ and survive, once again, on her own?
Strengths: I love stories set in Victorian times, about girls who triumph on their own. Lee's Mary Quinn mysteries, Hooper's Fallen Grace-- such good stuff, and Hooper excels at historical details.
Weaknesses: A bit of a hard sell, and for younger students, who are more interested in historical fiction, the description of baby farms might be a bit much. Still, nothing middle school inappropriate, and I may have to buy this one!

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