Velvet – Mary Hooper
Release Date: 5th September 2011
Other Titles by this Author: Megan, Megan 2, Megan 3, Amy, Holly, Newes from the Dead, Fallen Grace, The Betrayal and many, many others
Velvet is an orphan. She struggles to make ends meet by working in a steam laundry, where the work is back-breaking and exhausting. So when she attracts the attention of the glamorous clairvoyant of Madame Savoya, she cannot believe her good fortune.
Raised to the status of lady’s maid, Velvet is given elegant clothes to wear and is brought to live in a grand house in London. But the longer she works for Savoya, the more she discovers about the mysterious world of a spiritual medium. Velvet soon realises that her employer is not quite what she seems and that this knowledge could put her very life in danger...
I’m rather picky about my historical fiction so I’m always hesitant when starting a novel whose historical fiction I’ve never read before. I really need to get over that otherwise I may never have read the very awesome Velvet!
Mary Hooper’s depiction of Victorian London is rich, vivid and full of life. Velvet’s days in the steam laundry were full of hard graft and dangerous conditions and I could almost feel the sweltering heat and claustrophobic conditions that the laundry girls suffered for ridiculously long hours every day. And then there was Velvet’s desperation to keep her job because of the horror of being poor at the turn of the century only to be rescued by one of London’s most popular clairvoyants, Madame Savoya.
And what a world Madame Savoya introduced Velvet to! Madame Savoya’s world is lavish and romantic and completely enthralling. I loved the way that the fads of mediums changed and developed and how their showmanship got even more extravagant. This was then reflected in their clothes, house and everything else about their lives. It was fascinating to see how they adapted to these changes and how necessary it was for them to do so for them to survive. The world of Victorian mediums is dark and slightly disturbing in the lengths they went to extract money from people drowning in grief.
It was this that Velvet struggled with later on in the novel. For most of Velvet she struggled where to place her trust and belief and I thoroughly admired that she wanted to do what was right regardless of how badly she would be affected. This was somewhat surprising to me for a time when young girls would sell their illegitimate children to avoid society’s stigma and would beg for jobs that would eventually send them to an early grave. Velvet is a very strong character that is determined to make her way in the world but didn't let her sense of romance or morality slide and I would love to be her friend.
I thoroughly enjoyed velvet and I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for more of Mary Hooper’s historical fiction.
As part of Mary’s UK blog tour I have a fantastic guest post about other fictional mediums from Mary. Enjoy!
OTHER MEDIUMS I HAVE KNOWN...
Considering the enormous interest in the occult from the Victorian age onwards, it is surprising that there aren’t more spirit mediums around in fiction. Perhaps people are just too nervous to write about them in case there are ghostly repercussions. Here are some of my favourites...
The first medium (ie someone who purports to speak to dead people) I ever heard of was
Madame Arcati in a play written by Noel Coward called BLITHE SPIRIT. Madame Arcati is asked by a novelist, Charles, to conduct a séance so that he can discover more about the occult. Unfortunately Madame accidentally conjures up the spirit of his dead wife – who immediately sets about trying to break up Charles’ current marriage. Madame Arcati is dippy and eccentric, but at least she is the genuine article, and after conducting a great number of séances, manages to rid the house of its spirit.
Is the name of the medium in Hilary Mantell’s prize-winning novel, BEYOND BLACK. Alison tours the country with her business partner, Colette, bringing ghosts to within everyone’s reach in her psychic show. Alison has ghosts of her own to exorcise, however, and is tormented by all the awful things that happened to her in her past. Her “spirit guide”, Morris, is more ghastly than ghostly and has any number of spirit friends who pop up from time to time to taunt and humiliate her. A strange and compelling book.
Sarah Water’s first book, AFFINITY, is about Victorian Spiritualism and tells the intriguing story of a middle-class prison visitor, Margaret, who forms an desperate attachment to lower-class Selina Dawes, a medium who is in jail for fraud. Soon Margaret begins to receive certain messages and proofs from the “other side” and, her love for Selina seeming to be returned, the two women contrive to run away together. The ending is completely devastating and unexpected – a great read.
Is a medium who doesn’t want to be one. In THE TURN OF THE SCREW, by Henry James, Miss Jessell is employed as governess for two young children and believes that she is in communication with the former governess and her lover, who are trying to corrupt the souls of the two children she is caring for. Spine-chilling and subtle, this book wraps itself around you like a Victorian fog. Is the governess suffering from delusions, or are the dead governess and her evil lover really trying to claim the children’s souls?
And thank to the lovely people at Bloomsbury I have a fantastic giveaway: Marys entire backlist of historical novels: At the Sign of the Sugared Plum, Petals in the Ashes, The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose, At the House of the Magician, By Royal Command, The Betrayal and Fallen Grace
This giveaway is UK ONLY and ends 11:59pm GMT on the 14th September.
To enter: leave a comment with your name and email address.
Thank you to Bloomsbury for providing me with a review copy and asking me to take part in the tour.