Velvet by Mary Hooper

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (5 Sep 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0747599211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747599210

Synopsis from Amazon

Velvet is a laundress in aVictorian steam laundry. With both her mother and father dead, she is an orphanand has to rely upon her own wits to make a living. The laundry’s work isback-breaking and Velvet is desperate to create a better life for herself. ThenVelvet is noticed by Madame Savoya, a famed medium, who asks Velvet to come towork for her. Velvet is dazzled at first by the young yet beautifully dressedand bejewelled Madame. But soon Velvet realises that Madame Savoya is not allthat she says she is, and Velvet’s very life is in danger …
The year is 1900 and winter. Velvet is working in a laundry that employs 100+ girls.  Orphaned and having only asixpence keeping her from the workhouse, she uses her wit so that instead oflosing her job, she is given a place in ‘Personal Laundry’ that needs more thanan extra touch but is much less back breaking.
Velvet learns that customer’s boxes are claimed as regularsfor the personal laundry workers in the hope that they will receive somethingextra tucked in the garments at Christmas or even be hired in one of the bighouses.  She claims Madame NatashaSavoya and at Christmas receives two tickets to attend an Evening of Mediumshiphosted by Madame Savoya.
Not long afterwards, Velvet expects to be sacked when sheburns Madame’s silk ruffle but instead is offered a place in her home as anassistant, which ultimately leads to her life being in danger …
I have to say that I really enjoy history (whether fact orfiction) and Velvet is no exception. Well researched, the writing is so evocative that it is so easy to be apart of Velvet’s world.  The story notonly accurately portrays the emerging fashion of mediums at the time of thelate Victorian/early Edwardian era but also how the different classes lived.
Velvet’s character was believable – I loved her ambition fromthe very beginning!  It’s easy to seehow awestruck and blinded she was. Imagine living from hand-to-mouth and then suddenly to have most of thecomforts of the upper class … such glamorous surroundings blinding her to manyrealities.  I loved the way she asksherself questions about how she is feeling, which I think accurately reflects ayoung person finding their own way in life instead of expecting the adults tomake the decisions.
Velvet also has a couple of love choices – Charlie herchildhood sweetheart or George the suave and sophisticated assistant.  Both men have their own roles to playleading to attempted murder …
Having heard my own family relate of how Christmas wascelebrated (passed down through the years), I really felt myself there whenVelvet spent Christmas Day with her friend Lizzie’s family as it echoes thosetales.
The other true element in this story is baby farming.  In my own family history research I’dtouched on fostering/adoption in the early 1900’s but to see it as part of astory rather than historical text on a page brings it home how destitute someyoung women were – knowing the environment they were leaving their babies in,but having no choice at all – no protection offered to them in society.  I’m very fortunate that my direct ancestorwas ‘fostered’ by a close family member …
Velvet is an historical fiction, sprinkled with romance,manipulation, crime and historical facts/some historical people.  Despite it being ‘tagged’ as a young adulthistorical fiction I would also recommend it for anyone wanting to find outhistorical facts in an easy to digest format.

I am giving Velvet the following fairy rating:
I won this book in a Bookbabblers (the online book children and youngadults)  giveaway on Twitter.  I would like to thank them for choosing me.

Mary Hooper has written several historical fiction novels which are now being added to my wishlist!
You can visit the author on her website. Mary Hooper also has a Facebook author page.


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