The Quietness captures the darker side of Victorian London – the squalid slums, the desperate measures those on the streets must take to survive, the sinister secrets of the city. It is told from two different female perspectives. These are Queenie – a young girl living on the streets, trying to escape the poverty and desperation of her family – and Ellen – another young girl with a wealthy but lonely life. Queenie finds a job, looking after babies for two sisters running a sanctuary for ‘fallen women’ or unmarried women, giving them a place to have their babies. In several dark twists, Queenie and Ellen’s worlds collide.
Both Queenie and Ellen are strong characters, each with an interesting tale to tell. While some of the twists were predictable, it was a compelling read, if much darker than I had expected. While some of the minor characters are less fleshed out, they are memorable (particularly the evil characters) and provide a striking image of Victorian London; one which will stay with readers. What is also unusual is that Queenie’s chapters are in the third person whereas Ellen’s are in the first person – it is strange that Queenie’s story is not told in her own voice. The author’s note at the end gives the fascinating truth behind the story. The setting seems historically accurate, giving a view of the tough life of people like Queenie – this is no Christmas card Victorian London. Given the dark themes of the story – including rape, prostitution and baby farming – this is a book I would recommend for older teens, 14+.
Originally published on http://www.lovereading.co.uk in January 2013.
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Age Group: 14+
Genre: Historical Fiction