Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Tea Rose - Jennifer Donnelly

I was lent this one by A. and I must say I have no idea why it took me so long to start it. I loved it!

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 shining hopes meet the darkest truths.

Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, a bright, 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 plans are shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man force her to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit – and the ghosts of her past – propel her rise from a modest West Side shop front 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.

The Tea Rose is a towering old-fashioned story, imbued with a modern sensibility, of a family's destruction, of murder and revenge, of love lost and won again, and of one determined woman's quest to survive and triumph.

Authentic and moving, The Tea Rose is an unforgettable novel – one certain to take its place beside such enduring epics as A Woman of Substance, The Thornbirds, and
The Shell Seekers.

I think one of my favourite things in the novel was how Connelly makes her story come alive, I can almost see the streets of London and New York, smell the fruit and vegetables at the market and shiver with anticipation while Jack the Ripper strolls the streets of Whitechapel.

Then I really enjoyed her detailed characters. The story's main characters are young Fiona Finnegan and her boyfriend Joe Bristow. We really feel we know Fiona and her family. We feel their joys and their sorrows. Fiona and Joe are saving money to start their own business but unfortunately things don't happen as they would like. Fiona's family is shattered by several tragedies amidst the union workers fight for better pay and unsolved murders of prostitutes in the neighbourhood. And Joe finds that a reckless action can change a life.

Separated by an ocean Fiona will raise from adversity proving herself to be a strong, determined and enterprising woman whose business skills will lead her to build and empire. But she doesn't forget the past and how she vowed to make the culprits of her family's misfortune pay nor the young man she loved so much. In the end they are both survivors!

There's an unexpected twist in the end in preparation for the next book and now I can't wait to get my hands on The Winter Rose.

Grade: A

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