Regular readers will know that I often feature books by best-selling author Carol Rivers who has written a series of books about the Isle of Dogs. Carol’s gritty and heartwarming East End family dramas are greatly influenced by her grandparents who lived in Gavrick Street and then Chapel House Street on the Island. The books are widely praised for their realism and have appeared regularly in many bestseller charts and have a loyal readership in the UK and increasingly in the United States.
Recently, I was delighted to receive her latest book entitled Christmas Child which is based in Victorian London and follows the exploits of Ettie O’Reilly, who grows up in an orphanage in Poplar.
The book begins on Christmas Day 1880 in Poplar when a sick unmarried mother leaves her new born baby at the Sisters of Clemency Convent, next we move forward thirteen years and that baby is now thirteen year old Ettie O’Reilly whose protected life in the orphanage is coming to an abrupt end with the closing of the institution. The nuns had been her only family and she had enjoyed helping the nuns and helping the younger orphans helping them with their reading and writing.
When Michael, an East End street urchin arrived, Ettie tries to help him with his reading and writing, but he is difficult and has spent his whole life looking out for himself. Eventually, Michael and Ettie become good friends, and when Michael declares Ettie to be his girl, she is not unhappy.
When the Roman Catholic church decides to close the orphanage, Ettie is found a place as a maid to Lucas and Clara Benjamin, who own a smoking lounge in Soho. Michael decides to go back to life on the streets and Ettie starts her new life as a maid to the Benjamin’s.
Ettie finds that that life outside the orphanage is a challenge in more ways than one and good fortune is often followed by bad fortune. The twists and turns of Ettie’s life during next few years are fraught with danger, poverty and near death, but she is blessed in finding some true friends who seek to protect her from her mother’s fate. After being exposed to the dark side of the city, will she ever find Michael and have true happiness?
What sets Carol’s books apart from many others of the type is that she creates believable characters who represent some of the best and worst of human qualities. Carol’s books pays tribute to strong characters, often women like Ettie who will not be defeated by life’s injustices and hardships. Carol also manages to realistically portray a complex Victorian London full of great wealth and terrible poverty.
Although this fascinating and enjoyable book represents a move away from the East End family dramas, it still has a strong sense of humanity which Carol suggests can be found even in the worst environments.
I am sure that Christmas Child will be just as successful as Carol’s other books and If you would like to read buy a copy of the book, it is available here.
Carol lives in Dorset but still follows closely events on the Island and is a long time supporter of Isle of Dogs Life. If you would like to find out more about the book or other books written by Carol Rivers. Please visit her website here