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.
I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time because it is my literary agent, Jenn Mishler’s, favorite book. But I’d always hesitated to pick it up due to the enormous length. But I finally committed and I’m so glad I did. This book blew me away: the grand scope of the story, the depth of the characters, the historical details. Jennifer Donnelly’s detailed plot is masterfully executed. I don’t know how she kept everything so sharp and tight – she’s a genius. Her writing is emotional and lovely.
Unlike most books of this length, I never got bored, never wanted to stop reading. Fiona’s story is so tragic, complicated and fascinating. I had to make sure she triumphed over all the awful circumstances placed before her. I was completely enthralled from page one to the end. The only drawback of this book is the content – NOT A CLEAN READ! See below.
CONTENT NOTE: NOT A CLEAN READ!
There are several (maybe 8-10) descriptive sex scenes. The scenes are not lengthy, but leave very little to the imagination. The book also contains frequent foul language including several F-words and deity terms; a fair amount of violence, some descriptive; and some details about the darker side of society like crime, prostitution, drugs.