Victorian London can be an unforgiving place of hardship for those without a home and family. Mary Finn finds herself dismissed from her own family when her father remarries and sends her off to work outside the home. Ending up as a maid and sharing a bed with the other maid, Eliza, who has eyes for her co-worker, Mr. Bates, Mary's character is being assessed closely. Does she have eyes for Mr. Bates? Would she be willing to disappear into the linen closet with him for a quick "count of the sheets?" In another world across the city blocks lives James Nelligan. James was raised by a foster mother who loved him dearly but at age five he had to come back to the Foundling Home where he has been tossed into a stratified world of boys and their pranks and power. Head shaved and shoes too tight, James will quickly figure out how to survive. Told in alternating voices, the grit and the folly of these two lost humans who are determined to make the best of their lot in life, get into your skin. Masterful wordsmithing and brilliant characters make this a real jewel of a read. 250 pages Ages 14 and up
Told in alternating chapters by three characters, this is the story of Mary Finn [a 14 year old girl who cares for her younger siblings after her mother dies in childbirth], Caden Tucker [ a handsome stableboy in the Royal Army], James Nelligan [an orphan who lives with a foster family until the age of 6 when he is sent to a Foundling Home in London].Set in London of the late 19th century, Mary is forced to make her own way in the world as a servant when her father remarries. Caden falls for Mary, but ships out when Mary reveals her pregnancy.James longs for the parents he never knew. Their lives are intertwined, but we do not know that for sure until the final chapter. An Afterword includes information about the history of foundling homes in England.
Recommended by Deborah E. Cohen,Librarian.