Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose

The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose

Mary Hooper
Historical Fiction
For ages 14 and up
Bloomsbury USA, 2006   ISBN: 978-1582348544

Eliza Rose’s life has taken a very drastic and frightening turn for the worse. It all began when her stepmother cast her out of the family cottage. Not knowing what else to do, Eliza made her way to the great city of London to try to find her father who was looking for work there. Surely he at least would want her back. It wasn't long before Eliza got into trouble. She got caught stealing a pie and was brought to the Clink Prison where she is now doing her best to survive.

Luckily Eliza is seen by Old Ma Gwyn who, seeing Eliza’s startling green eyes and her lovely long black hair, pays to have the girl released and then takes her in. Even more luckily, Ma’s eldest daughter Nelly quickly whisks Eliza away before Ma has the chance the use the girl in the brothel that she runs. Nelly is determined that Eliza is not going to be ruined by Ma’s ‘customers.’

So now Eliza lives with the lively and popular Nelly, who is an actress and whose dream is to become one of the King’s many mistresses. Eliza works in the theatre, and she serves as Nelly’s maid and companion. Eliza is able to take time away from her duties to try to find her father. She dreams that they will have a loving and warm reunion. Instead, when she does at last find him, he tells her that it was his wish that she should be sent away from her home. It would appear that Eliza is not his daughter, nor is she the first Mrs. Rose’s child either. She is a “cuckoo” who ended up in the Rose’s home for some unknown reason.

Poor Eliza feels very lost, for now she has no idea who she is or where she came from. As she does her best she deal with this new state of affairs, she watches as Nelly charms the King into making her his mistress. Eliza gets an all too clear picture of what court life is like, and she is often horrified by what she sees. The King is surrounded by idle, often heartless people, whose only interest in life is to please themselves. It is a dangerous world, and Eliza comes to learn that people are rarely what they seem.

In this superbly written work of historical fiction, Mary Hooper paints a picture of what it must have been like to live in London during the reign of King Charles II. Hers is a London full of poverty, squalor, vice, and danger, and there is a definite passion for hedonism which seems to overlay everything. Beneath it all, there is that struggle for survival, for success,and  for power.  We see Old Ma Gwyn's machinations to acquire new girls, Nelly’s own determination to win the King’s favor, and Lord Monmouth’s efforts to be declared the King’s heir. It is a battle, and often there are casualties. In the midst of it all there is Eliza; sweet caring Eliza whose only dream is to find her true family.

With rich and colorful characters, a fast-paced and exciting plot, and plenty of fascinating facts from history, this novel is sure to delight readers who enjoy historical fiction.