Among the Fallen

Holiday House. Oct. 2019. 304p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780823441020.
Gr 10 Up–Set in Victorian England, this is the story of 16-year-old Orpha, an orphan wrongly imprisoned in Tothill. When the opportunity arrives to go to Urania Cottage, a home for fallen women to learn skills before emigrating to the colonies, Orpha decides to take the chance. During her time at Urania, Orpha is mentored by the mysterious Mr. Dickens who is eager to know all the girls’ stories, though she is guarded in telling him hers. As she spends more time at Urania and develops relationships with those there, Orpha grows and learns to find her voice. As indicated in the preface, Tothill was a real prison and Urania Cottage was a real home supervised by Charles Dickens and founded by Lady Burdett-Coutts, who both appear in the story. Schwartz also shares that in homage to Dickens, she wrote this book in his 20 chapter style. This homage, however, causes the first half of the book to consist of long choppy chapters that bleed into short rushed ones in the second half. The overall theme of the story is different from other historical novels, which may make it appealing to some readers. Orpha shares her story about being raped by a family member, which may cause discomfort for some readers or trigger their own personal trauma.
VERDICT Purchase only where historical fiction is popular.

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