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These Shallow Graves Hardcover – October 27, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—It's September 1890, and Josephine "Jo" Montfort has been called home from Miss Sparkwell's School for Young Ladies upon her father's death. The police said it was an accident, but Jo knows her father would never have been so careless as to clean a loaded gun. When rumors of suicide reach her ears, she feels compelled to discover the truth of what happened that night in her father's study. Risking her reputation, the teen searches for answers wherever the clues take her, even to the dangerous slums and docks of New York City. With a handsome and nosy newsman as her reluctant guide, Jo begins to learn more about her family's murky history. Each secret she uncovers leads to another, stirring up her past and threatening her future. Donnelly's latest is a glimpse into the changing societal structure of turn-of-the-century New York City, personified by Jo Montfort. She is a girl trapped by her family's expectations and yearning for a different life, sentiments that will resound with today's teens. She and her co-amateur detective and forbidden romantic interest, Eddie Gallagher, are likable, well-drawn, and interesting. While there may not be many surprises for discerning readers, interest is maintained as they unravel the puzzle through Jo's naive eyes. The plot moves forward at steady pace and short chapters break the novel up into easily devourable pieces. VERDICT A beautifully written mystery that will appeal to a variety of readers.—Heather Miller Cover, Homewood Public Library, AL
Praise for These Shallow Graves:
★ “These Shallow Graves succeeds as a wonderfully paced thriller, a heart-pounding romance and an unflinching look at the hard choices one young woman must make when society disparages her dreams.” -Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
★ "Fast-paced and thrilling...a smart, insightful, timely depiction of a young woman poised on the brink of a new world after the shattering of another."-Booklist, Starred Review
★ "Action-packed chapters propel this compelling mystery...[and] the injustices Donnelly highlights remain all too relevant."-Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"A beautifully written mystery."-SLJ
"[A] fast-paced thriller...the story races to its surprising conclusion."-Kirkus Reviews
"A heroine you can't help cheering on."-The Horn Book
"A twisted tale of secrets, murder, love, and revenge. This historical thriller delivers...[and] Donnelly will keep you on the edge of your seat with this fast-paced, tightly written page turner."-USAToday.com
"Donnelly returns with a powerhouse of a whodunit. Her eighth novel strikes hard against poverty, sexism, classism, and gree, driving as relentlessly as Jo in her pursuit of truth and freedom."-BookPage.com
"These Shallow Graves delivered all that I adore: lovely prose, historical intrigue, unique characters and setting. I devoured this book!"-Ruta Sepetys, New York Times bestselling author of Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea
"An intelligent, personable heroine-Jo Montfort's hopes for an enlightened future uncover a dark past, resulting in a splendidly hair-raising tour of the brightest and darkest corners of Victorian New York."-Elizabeth Wein, New York Times bestselling author of Code Name Verity and Black Dove, White Raven
"Jo Montfort is a gutsy modern heroine in a beguiling tale of old New York. Money, murder, betrayal, and family secrets....I loved spending time in this world!"-Elizabeth Ross, author of William C. Morris Award finalist Belle Epoque
"A fast-paced Gilded Age crime thriller that plunges its intrepid investigative-journalist heroine into the sordid underworld of nineteenth-century New York City and into her own family's dark secrets."-Julie Berry, award-winning author of All the Truth That's In Me
Top customer reviews
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
This was a great mystery/historical fiction read. Jo is an intelligent young woman of a well-to-do family. She dreams of having the freedom to choose her path in life--whether it is to become a journalist, to marry who her family wants her to marry or to not marry at all. Then her world is rocked when her father dies, of an apparent suicide...or was it? Jo begins an investigation into what really happened to her father, with the help of dashing newspaperman Eddie. Of course, she falls for him even though they are not a socially acceptable match. Close to 500 pages, this book flew and will keep readers engaged from the first page to the last. The characters, most of whom are flawed, are intriguing and well written. I highly recommend this book.
Inquisitive by nature, Jo finds the reports of her father's death have inconsistencies, and once she pulls the first thread in the fabric of lies, she can't stop until she has unraveled the entire and true story.
While there is a lot in Shallow Graves that we've read before: love between two people from different classes, rebellious heroine who breaks the rules, long lost family members reunited, the author freshens these tropes and brings an exciting story to the page. The characters are highly defined and besides, the protagonist herself, my favorites were Fairy Fay and Oscar. Shadowy characters like The Tailor and Grandmama were great 19th century touches.
I read this in a few sitting because I loved the style, the intense emotions and the story itself. I had to find out the whole truth, and I didn't until almost the very end. For me, that's a good story.
This book was downright fun! I had so much fun reading it and I just couldn’t get enough. I fell in love with 1890s New York, the strong characters, and the compelling story that left me wanting more. These Shallow Graves is a brilliant historical fiction novel that is bursting with mystery, suspense, a great love story, and a whole lot of girl power.
Josephine Montfort is a 17 year old girl born into privilege. She is near the end of finishing school, awaiting a marriage proposal, and desperately searching for freedom. She wants to be a writer, like Nellie Bly, but due to her place in society it is looked down upon. While at school she finds out her father has died from an apparent suicide. Jo thinks differently and decides to try and uncover the truth behind her father’s death. She gains help from a young reporter named Eddie and a morgue assistant named Oscar. But as Jo’s investigation continues she realizes some truths are better left buried.
I am not a huge fan of historical fiction. I love books that time travel and go back to certain times but usually I find historical fiction novels to be stuffy, too fixed on factual details and settings and not enough time spent on the actual story. Jennifer Donnelly exceeded my expectations and was able to craft together a fascinating novel that took historical facts, settings, dress, and societal standards and weave them into a story that kept you trying to solve the mystery while rooting for Jo to keep her determination and willpower and overcome the restrictions society has placed on her. It was so easy to get pulled into this story. I felt like I was actually in New York City in 1890. I was fascinated by a lot of the decisions that Jo had to make based on what was expected of her. Today those things would never happen and I was constantly appalled by some of the things expected of her. One of the biggest was the fact that she needed to be in mourning for six months after her father passed meaning she could only wear demure, black outfits and could not attend any outings or balls unless is was strictly family or approved by her uncle. I am sorry but to me that is just outright crazy. When someone dies I think you should celebrate their life and then live your life to its fullest. I am not even going to get started on the fact that women of high society are expected to marry around the age of 18 and then start knocking out kids right away. No thank you. Grandmama Aldrich even referred to women in the book like dogs and that they are meant for breeding. WHAT?!??!?!!
Okay I feel like I went off on a tangent there. Anyway, the plot of this novel is fantastic, it draws you in and makes you want to solve the crime as much as Jo. There are so many twists and turns and we meet some great characters along the way. One of those being the young reporter looking for his story that will make him a great reporter, Eddie Gallagher. He represents the working class and provides great balance to Jo. He helps keep her in line of her standards when she starts to get a bit too excited about chasing a lead. At other times, he is right there with her chasing the story. The romance that develops between the two is very organic and real. There is no insta-love and at one point I didn’t even think a romance would develop between the two. But it makes for a great part of the story because Jo is expected to get a proposal from Bram Aldrich, one of the richest men in New York, and the slight but hardly a love triangle if you can even call it a love triangle plays a major role in the development of this story. There is a super cute kissy part between Eddie and Jo so if you have read this book then you know what I am talking about. But seriously guys I think it was one of the best first kisses ever written in a book. (Well, at least that I can remember at this time.)
Some other great characters that I loved because they were well written and surprising and just added an overall sense of perfection to this novel were Uncle Phillip Montfort, Trudy, Oscar, and Fairy Fay. I didn’t find that any characters were just placed in the book to fill a whole, every single one had a purpose.
I know a book is fantastic when I cannot get it out of my head, whether it’s the story, the setting or the time period. And this one was drowning my brain. I kept speaking in terms used from the 1890s and kept imagining what life was like back then. I live on a historic boulevard in Chicago with huge houses and mansions (I wish I lived in one) and the entire time I was reading this book I kept imagining walking down the street in a smart suited dress, sucked into a corset to make my waist 17 inches, my hand resting on the inside of my husband’s elbow as we walk to a friends for afternoon tea or even a dinner party. Although that would be fun for a day I do not think I would survive in times like this, not being able to express my opinion or feel wrong for my thirst for knowledge would drive me insane, literally, I would probably have ended up in a madhouse, like Dunning, Chicago’s historic asylum from the late 1800s or as in this novel the Darkbriar Asylum. (On a side note though I do wish to someday be able to attend a ball. A real one, in large gowns, were we pretend we are proper women from a time when proper was a thing.)
I highly recommend this book. It was absolutely fantastic. The only reason I knocked half a star off was because I did find somethings just a bit predictable. I am definitely going to pick up some more books from Jennifer Donnelly.