‘Vividly imagined’ Sunday Telegraph
‘Sex and death meet again in [a] marvellous evocation of Edwardian England’ Daily Mail
The girl reminded me of my favourite chocolates, whipped hazelnut creams, and I knew just from looking at her that I wanted her for my best friend.
Queen Victoria is dead. In January 1901, the day after her passing, two very different families visit neighbouring graves in a London cemetery. The traditional Waterhouses revere the late Queen where the Colemans have a more modern outlook, but both families are appalled by the friendship that springs up between their respective daughters.
As the girls grow up, their world changes almost beyond measure: cars are replacing horses, electric lighting is taking over from gas, and emancipation is fast approaching, to the delight of some and the dismay of others…
‘Sex and death meet again in Tracy Chevalier's marvellous evocation of Edwardian England’ Daily Mail
‘Cleverly atmospheric’ Sunday Telegraph
‘The author's grip on the reader is as powerful as in her first novel. It is almost impossible to break off reading this driving narrative’ Independent
‘A master stylist in the making’ Boston Globe
‘Writing about the past — especially this much written-about period — has its pitfalls, but Chevalier has triumphantly avoided them. The result is a novel that shows both the strangeness of the world as it was and its closeness to our own time’ The Times
About the author
Tracy Chevalier is the author of six novels, including the international bestseller Girl with a Pearl Earring, Remarkable Creatures, The Virgin Blue, Falling Angels, and The Lady and the Unicorn. Born in Washington, DC, she moved to London in 1984, where she lives with her husband and son. She has a website at www.tchevalier.com.
No small part of the appeal of Chevalier's excellent debut, Girl with a Pearl Earring, was its plausibility; readers could readily accept the idea that Vermeer's famous painting might indeed have been created under circumstances similar to Chevalier's imaginative scenario. The same cannot be said about her second novel. While Chevalier again proves adept at evoking a historical era this time, London at the turn of the 19th century she has devised a plot whose contrivances stretch credibility. When Maude Coleman and Lavinia Waterhouse, both five years of age, meet at their families' adjoining cemetery plots on the day after Queen Victoria's death, the friendship that results between sensitive, serious-minded Maude and narcissistic, melodramatic Livy is not unlikely, despite the difference in social classes. But the continuing presence in their lives of a young gravedigger, Simon Field, is. Far too cheeky for a boy of his age and class, Simon plays an important part in the troubles that will overtake the two families. Other characters are gifted with insights inappropriate to their age or station in life. Yet Chevalier again proves herself an astute observer of a social era, especially in her portrayal of the lingering sentimentality, prejudices and early stirrings of social change of the Victorian age. When Maude's mother, Kitty, becomes obsessively involved with the emerging suffragette movement, the plot gathers momentum. While it's obvious that tragedy is brewing, Chevalier shows imaginative skill in two neatly accomplished surprises, and the denouement packs an emotional wallop. While not as accomplished a work as Girl, the ironies inherent in the dramatic unfolding of two families' lives ultimately endow this novel with an impressive moral vision.