Saturday, July 06, 2013

At the Sign of the Sugared Plum, by Mary Hooper

In 1665, farm girl Hannah comes to London to assist her sister run a sweetmeats shop.  She is excited to live in such a great city and has many dreams of becoming rich and successful in such a place of opportunity.  However, the timing is not fortuitous.  The city has been struck with plague.  At first, the sisters manage to avoid the infection and even develop some clever ways to make a living amid the chaos.  However, as the mortality rates increase, the challenges become more and more severe.

A brief, but ultimately satisfying historical novel that has a lively and sympathetic heroine and which vibrantly reveals life in 17th century London at a very dark time.  Hooper takes her subject fairly seriously, so this story lacks the wit and fun of Karen Cushman's similar books, but it is fascinating to read. This is a great example of what a historical novel can (and should) be -- educational and entertaining -- and did a nice job to launch many other historical novels from Hooper (including a sequel, Petals in the Ashes that I plan to read soon).

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