Friday 12 November 2021

πŸ“– Book review ~ Lily by Rose Tremain


Random House UK

11 November 2021

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

Nobody knows yet that she is a murderer...

Abandoned at the gates of a London park one winter's night in 1850, baby Lily Mortimer is saved by a young police constable and taken to the London Foundling Hospital. Lily is fostered by an affectionate farming family in rural Suffolk, enjoying a brief childhood idyll before she is returned to the Hospital, where she is punished for her rebellious spirit. Released into the harsh world of Victorian London, Lily becomes a favoured employee at Belle Prettywood's Wig Emporium, but all the while she is hiding a dreadful secret...

Across the years, policeman Sam Trench keeps watch over the young woman he once saved. When Sam meets Lily again, there is an instant attraction between them and Lily is convinced that Sam holds the key to her happiness - but might he also be the one to uncover her crime and so condemn her to death?

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

The eponymous, Lily Mortimer is abandoned as a baby and left in a London park from where she is rescued by Sam Trench, young police constable, who delivers baby Lily into the ordered world of the London Foundling Hospital. This harsh environment which shows its young inhabitants no affection comes alive in the description of what life was like for those children who had, quite simply, been abandoned to their fate. 

Lily's early fostering with the kind hearted Puck family in rural Suffolk is the only bright spot on what seems like a very dark journey for Lily, a journey which takes a decidedly darker turn when she is forced to leave behind a loving family only to return to the Foundling Hospital as a bewildered six year old. Lily's life unfolds before us in this intriguing Victorian melodrama which has both pathos and poverty. 

Well written, and cleverly researched, there is a real sense of the darker side of life which brings Victorian London alive in such an authentic way so that you practically feel the grime and sense the squalor. I found Lily's employment at Belle Prettywood's Wig Emporium absolutely fascinating especially as Lily's nimble fingers make this complicated process seem all the more realistic. 

Amidst a life of incredible harshness there are moments when the story becomes unbelievably sad, but what shines throughout is Lily's strength of spirit despite the deadly secret she carries with her. Moving between timescales Lily is a melancholic story of a Victorian orphan who is determined to make her way despite her poverty and with the fickle nature of fate stacked against her.

Rose Tremain's best-selling novels have won many awards, including the Baileys Women's Prize, the Whitbread Novel of the Year, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the Prix Femina Etranger. Restoration, the first of her novels to feature Robert Merivel, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She lives in Norfolk and London.

Twitter #RoseTremain #Lily

@ChattoBooks @vintagebooks

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