From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-A Victorian novel with a hint of romance. Sixteen-year-old Velvet Groves is struggling to make it on her own and trying to get away from her past. When she faints during her job as a laundress at London's Ruffold's Steam Laundry, she pleads for another chance and is assigned to attend to the clothing of Madame Natasha Savoya, a well-respected medium. Once she is in the mysterious woman's home, she finds herself attracted to Madame's handsome assistant and her glamorous lifestyle. Readers learn about the roles mediums played during the height of spiritualism, and Velvet slowly realizes that her elegance-loving employer preys on bereaved people, tricking them out of their fortunes. However, out of fear that Madame will bring up Velvet's past and she'll lose her new life, the teen cooperates. Eventually, her conscience catches up with her and she decides to expose the two-faced woman. With some very good twists and turns, the novel does an excellent job of depicting the era, characterizing the hardship women faced and breaking down the many tricks mediums used. An author's note is appended.-Jesse L. Ray, Seattle Public Library, WA α(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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When wealthy, elegant Madame Savoya rescues Velvet from the oppressive laundry where she works, the young woman can hardly believe her good fortune. Early 1900s London offers few opportunities for poor women trying to support themselves, so for Velvet to be set up in Madame’s household to assist with her séances seems like a fairy tale come true. Spiritualism is all the rage, and Edwardian Londoners flock to Madame’s to try to connect with loved ones on the other side. The trickery behind the medium’s methods gradually surfaces, and while Velvet is still awestruck by her good fortune, doubts begin to form, triggered by a stunning plot to “bring back” the deceased infant of one of the clients. Hooper has penned a lively historic tale, rich with fascinating details of daily life and the spiritualist movement particularly. Best of all is engaging heroine Velvet and her journey of discovery from innocence to hard-nosed reality. Strong characterizations will draw in the reader, and appended historical notes top off the tale nicely. Grades 6-10. --Anne OMalley