Friday, 21 October 2011

At The Sign Of The Sugared Plum Review

At The Sign Of The Sugared Plum
-       Mary Hooper
Publisher: UK – Bloomsbury
It is 1665 and Hannah is full of excitement at the prospect of her first trip to London. She is going to help her sister, Sarah, in her candy shop, 'The Sugared Plum'. But Hannah does not get the welcoming reception she expected from her sister, because the Plague is taking hold of London. However, Hannah is determined to stay and together the two young women face the worst-with the possibility of their own demise, growing ever closer.
This is the second book in two weeks I’ve read set in the 1600s and I have to confess this is the book that most vividly invokes the period. Mary Hooper is celebrated for her historical YA books and after reading my first book from her I can understand why. The writing is simple and elegant, effortless painting pictures, sounds and smells of the period. In fact I just fell in love with Mary’s style of writing and descriptions!
The story focuses on Hannah, a young girl from the country who moves to London to help her older sister in her sweetmeats shop just before the Great Plague hits London in 1665. Hannah is new to the city and through her eyes we can experience the everyday life of people at the time living in a crowded, prosperous city. I loved Hannah’s naivety and wonder at seeing the city for the first time. People are not frightened at first but slowly the tension mounts as rumours and disease spread. I loved the descriptions of preventatives and how the dead are dealt with as the situation slowly gets worse and the fear mounts. My usual read in both YA and adult involves the supernatural in one way or another, but this gracefully written historical story moved me more than many  supernatural stories have recently – I think I’ve been missing out on some truly wonderful story-telling. J
This is a truly enchanting tale with plentiful historical detail for those who care. There is creepiness from the disease acting as a menacing figure towering over Hannah and her sister. I’m so happy I have a selection of other Mary Hooper books to work my way through as I have found a new favourite!
Recommended for fans of Peter Dickinson and Cat Patrick. 9 out of 10.


  1. I haven't read anything by Mary Hooper despite having Fallen Grace sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. Like you, I think I would welcome a bit of a change from the normal type of YA/PNR now and again just to keep things fresh and interesting:)

  2. You know there are times I really want a good historical. I may have to check out this author. I don't think I've read her YA either.

  3. Sounds good, but what a scary time. The plague sure freaks me out. I got it is embedded into our genes

  4. I've wanted to read some Mary Hooper for a while. I think this would be a good one for me to start with. Thanks for the review :)

  5. I remember reading the back of this book in my school library several times, but I never did get around to picking it up. Perhaps I should look for it here, at the local library, because it does sound very good. I used to really enjoy stories set in this time period in cities like London - it sounds really interesting.


  6. I love Mary Hoop, she's amazing and she inspirational! I can't wait to get this one!