Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Tea Rose Book Review

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

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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, a bright and defiant young woman dares to dream of a life beyond tumbledown wharves, gaslit alleys, and the grim and crumbling dwellings of the poor.

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 dreams are shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man take from her nearly everything - and everyone - she holds dear. Fearing her own death at the dark man's hands, she is forced to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit - and the ghosts of her past - propel her rise from a modest west side shopfront to the top of Manhattan's tea trade.

Fiona's old ghosts do not rest quietly, however, 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.

Review by Brittany:

Donnelly is an author that I've never read before, but she will easily become a new favorite of mine. This book was beautifully done. I loved how the author stuck to the accents each character had, adjusting her writing to illustrate those. This is an author who writes delicious sentences and descriptions, and this book is one I enjoyed falling into.

I also loved the story, although it was often so heartbreaking that I couldn't help but feel sorry for Fiona. She lived a tough life. Growing up poor and eventually left to her own devices because of tragedy after tragedy, Fiona still manages to make something of herself and to reach her dreams. The author used Jack the Ripper as a way to move the plot forward and took creative liberties to tie him into her story. I loved this part of the book. Jack intrigues me, and as a villain he is most definitely a scary one. While the story was high on drama, I never felt like any of it was too wildly unbelievable. Each tragedy and success that Fiona experienced seemed plausible, although I often wished for a little more happiness for her. In the end, the story does work out, although there are many hardships on the way.

The characters in this novel were all well done. My favorite was probably Nick, a man Fiona encounters on her way to New York who becomes a rock for her throughout the beginning of her new life there. Nick is often funny and cares about Fiona to a degree that almost no one else in the book does. He supports her in all endeavors that she undertakes, and who doesn't want a best friend like that? Michael, Fiona's uncle, was an interesting character, often funny because of his developing paternal feelings toward Fiona. Although many of Fiona's family is lost early in the book, those characters are also given a certain livelihood that sets them apart, a testament to the skills of development on Donnelly's part.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book. It's sizable but quite worth it. There's enough story to keep the reader interested, and it's so beautifully done that it's a world readers won't want to leave.

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