11 January 2010

Review: Jennifer Donnelly - The Tea Rose

~purchase a copy here~
~author website~

Paperback: 592 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (December 10, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312378025
ISBN-13: 978-0312378028

Genre: Historical Fiction
Main Characters: Fiona and Joe
Book Origin; Personal Library

Cover Summary:
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.

What a phenomenal read! This dynamic story engages the reader on so many levels that the world of Whitechapel comes alive through the pages in the mind’s eye. First of all it is the opening of this story; the murder of a prostitute by Jack the Ripper, that immediately grabbed my attention and never let it waver. For me, Jennifer Donnelly has given Jack the Ripper a realistic face, dark, almost sadistic and perfectly intertwined within this story, adding profound depth and a true feel to the world of Fiona. This is what amazed me so, I was there in Whitechapel, England anno 1888 and through Fiona’s eyes I was a part of the alley’s, the buildings, houses and the river Thames. With the author’s fantastic painting of scenery it made the district come to life so vividly, but above all, it is her outstanding character development that enthralled me to keep on reading.

The family Finnegan comes to life in changing times, when the low class workers try to unite themselves within the Union. However, this clashes with the owners of the factories and the situation will become worse before it remotely even shows signs of getting better. Fiona is a young woman of her class, working 10-12 hours a day for a few sixpence so she can help support her family and finance everyday life. Still she dreams of owning her own store someday and shares these dreams with the love of her heart, Joe. Both of them work hard and whatever they can save to make their dream of a store become real, they will. But the moment Fiona’s father decides to become the leader of the Union division of their area he alters the destiny of so many….

This is what the story is about, one man’s choice that puts events in motion for his family and Fiona’s life and dream are at the center of it, her strength, her will, her life force, will lure you into a captivating novel that gives you the feeling of an emotional rollercoaster ride as page after page unfolds it all before your eyes and it reverberates through your heart. The way of life was brutal in those days, no job… no money. No money, no food or shelter. Life was hard back then and I guess that is what grabbed me so much, regardless of such dire circumstances Fiona's dreams are as vivid as a rainbow. Magically alive within her heart and against all the odds she still manages to work hard and is full of hope to get those dreams realized, that is what Fiona is all about.

Fiona's journey from England to America speaks of a boldness that I adore to read about, still it is out of pure necessity that Fiona and her youngest brother travel to New York. There they meet new family and friends and this part of the story speaks of new love and triumph. Still the characters from part 1 aren’t forgotten and all their lives are so interlaced with each other by Jennifer Donnelly that I attached myself to them, needing to know how each character would fare and in the end I got what I wanted. The book is divided in three parts and this is, in my opinion, a great addition to the flow of the story with every time a change that catalyzes a new part in Fiona’s life.

With all that is happening in Fiona’s life, it is her love for Joe and their relationship that makes the romance breathtaking in this tale, what happened between them tugged at my heartstrings and through the story my desire had almost a one-track-mind. Through murder, loss, affairs and misunderstandings Joe and Fiona separately make something of their lives and in the most secret place of their heart they both still hold that bright and never ending love for one another. Besides the well crafted plot which is filled with darkness, despair and revenge, it is love that is vibrant throughout this story, the love of a mother for her child, the love between siblings, the love between friends and most of all of course the love between a man and a woman. I think Jennifer Donnelly demonstrates the best and the worst what the world had to offer at that time in history. With a deep touching tale, dynamic and engaging characters, an incredible world building and with a plot that holds a few twists in the end, she has surprised me and has me eager for the second installment in this trilogy!

I started The Tea Rose at night, curled up in bed just wanting to read a few chapters before going to sleep and I did go to sleep…three hours later. The next morning I grabbed the book again and spend a lazy Sunday with a novel perfectly suited for the day. All I can say is if you love a thoroughly set up epic historical and are not thrown off by the 700 pages, this is the novel for you!

4,5 stars

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  1. Great review! I really enjoyed this book. I still have 'The Winter Rose' on my TBR shelf.

  2. you paint a beautiful picture of this book, leontine. It sounds amazing...700 pages you say?...that is a little daunting, but if it's as good as you say, then well worth the amount of time to take to read it.

    And isn't that a pretty cover?

  3. @Sarah - I already read and reviewed The Winter Rose. I was once again swept of my feet, Donnelly makes it so easy to forget you're reading a 700+ page book. The Wild Rose is the third and final installment, it should get a release in 2010 and I'm crossing my fingers it does. The ending of Winter Rose is one hell of a set up for the final story, which is about the youngest brother of Fiona if I'm correct.

    @Amy - I know, it is what threw me of too at first, I can read 2-3 books, page wise. But like I said, this author makes you forget you're reading a 700 page novel :)

    PS: After reading review again just now I find out "coming to life" was a favorite expression for me regarding this novel LOL

  4. Dear god 700 pages? I haven't read Outlanders 'cause of the book length! Your review makes me want to give up my judgmental book length ways and dive right in.

  5. I am intrigued, but 700, yikes, but I do think it is worth it

  6. @Smokinhotbooks - 've got it reversed, I usually don't go for the novella's :) But I'm getting over it now that I've got my e-reader, finding some hot short reads out there.

    @Blodeuedd - I know 700 pages is a lot but once captured by the tale the chapters go by in the blink of an eye. or so it was with me.

  7. This book sounds sooo lovely. "She demonstrates the best and worst"

    I like that line:)

  8. Hi! Just found your blog and I like it! I'm a follower now! come follow me if you like my site!

  9. Sounds like a great read for me, too! I love the way you couldn't wait to pick it back up! That's got to account for a lot.

  10. @Mandi - It is one of those stories that really goes in to depth of time period, characters, background, emotions. You get the whole shebang :)

    @Cindy - I dropped by, really enjoyed visiting!

    @Sassy Brit - It sometimes a chance to take with these novels and it might take a moment but then I'm completely absorbed y the story and just can't let it go. It makes for awesome reading time.


I love to hear all your voices and opinions so thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.