Title: The Tea Rose
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: Classic Historical Fiction/ Thriller/ Romance
Source: Purchased Years Ago
My favourite quote; ‘At a glace, she seemed so slight and fragile, nothing but a slip of a girl standing at the river’s edge, dragging her hem in the mud. But eyes that lingered upon her as Joe’s did could see the force of her ambition in her every expression, her every gesture, from the thrust of her chin to her rough worker’s hands, now clenched into fists as if someone had challenged her.’
I think I’m going to struggle writing about my favourite books. Already I’m thinking… how an earth am I supposed to put down all of my thoughts and feelings about this book in words? Do I tell the whole story or do I save the ending for my readers? I guess it comes with practice, but the idea of it right now seems almost impossible.
I first came across Jennifer Donnelly about 10+ years ago when I discovered her book A Gathering Light. I fell in love with it and wanted to find more of her work, which lead me to the discovery of The Tea Rose.
This book is everything I look for in a novel. It has a great story, it has great characters, it uses real places with a realistic purpose and setting, does a brilliant job with Jack the Ripper, it’s exciting, it’s thrilling in parts and it plays with the heart of the reader.
The story is about a young girl named Fiona Finnegan who lives with her family in the poverty-stricken Whitechapel, London in the 1880s where it’s home to destitute and suffering. A strong willed, bright tea worker, she shares the dream of owning her own shop with her childhood next-door romance, Joe Bristow, and will do anything to hold on to it. Donnelly captures the true representation of Whitechapel’s limitations at its core, including the terrifying Jack the Ripper, who lurks in the shadows at night looking for his next victim. You feel as if you are actually there living in poverty and experiencing the hope and determination to follow your aspirations.
“The day you stop dreaming you might as well take yourself down to the undertaker’s, for you’re as good as dead.”
Fiona’s life is suddenly shattered into pieces when within a few shorts months she finds her life in danger and almost everything and everyone she’s ever loved is taken from her. With only her younger brother Seamie to care for, she flees London and travels to New York to find her uncle, with the help of a new friend Nicholas, only to find more heartache.
She’s not one to give up easily and fights to continue her dream and takes over her uncles shop with the support of new friends and a lot of good luck. Using what she knows, she introduces new tea to New York which starts her tea business empire.
Whilst never forgetting her past and what secrets lie within Whitechapel, she carries the burden for years, thinking of a way to get revenge on the person responsible for tearing her world apart, only then she will return.
The story is completely captivating, although be prepared as it is a long book!
Nicholas is definitely my favourite character in the story. He’s got a dark secret of his own but that doesn’t stop him for enjoying the comforts of life or living his dream as an artist dealer. Both Nicholas and Fiona share a wonderful connection that you can’t help but love and feel their devotion for each other. He’s passionate and honest with his opinions and you can see his admiration for Fee which only makes you adore him all the more.
“What’s going on?” Nick ask groggily. He’d stumbled out from the bedroom and was knotting the belt on his silk dressing gown. “I heard voices. I thought I was dreaming.” He blinked at the sea of roses before him. “My word, look at all the flowers! Did somebody die?” he asked, alarmed. He put his hand over his heart and checked for a beat. “Good God! I hope it wasn’t me!”
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It made my favourites shelf years ago and will forever remain.
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.