Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly, pub. 2007, 675 pg.
Rating: 5/5 stars

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 bright hopes meet the darkest truths. Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, 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 life is shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man take from her nearly everything-and everyone-she holds dear. Fearing her own death, she is forced to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit propels her rise from a modest West Side shop-front to the top of Manhattan's tea trade. But Fiona's old ghosts do not rest quietly, 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. --From cover

One of my friends recently asked me for a book recommendation, and I was so excited to share this book with her. I think I've recommended The Tea Rose to just about everyone who has asked me for a good book since I first read it. It is a masterpiece of a book, with everything from love to mystery to murder within its pages.

Jennifer Donnelly handles historical fiction extraordinarily well, weaving in historical figures and events so seamlessly that they seem like she invented them herself.

The chapters switch perspective between several characters. I loved this, because you always knew what was going on with all of the important characters, even when they were across the world from each other. You get to see everyone's thoughts and emotions, which makes you so much more attached to the characters. And they are definitely characters that you will fall in love with.

Fiona is a strong and incredibly admirable young lady. In a time where women were very much seen as inferior to men, she doesn't sit around and wait for permission. She knows what she wants, and she goes for it.

This book honestly has everything - Jack the Ripper, star-crossed lovers, New York socialites, a voyage at sea, mystery, turmoil, adventure...I could go on and on, but I don't want to spoil it for you!

If you're a fan of historical fiction, I would definitely give this book a look. Even if you're not incredibly fond of the genre, this book is entirely unique and definitely worth checking out.

[In the spirit of full disclosure, I'd like to point out that there are a few steamy (although not too graphic) love scenes in this book, so it might not be entirely appropriate for younger readers.]

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