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18 November 2016

Review: 'The Cockney Sparrow' by Dilly Court (2016)

She sang with the voice of a nightingale...

Gifted with a beautiful soprano voice, young Clemency Skinner is forced to work as a pickpocket in order to support her crippled brother, Jack. Their feckless mother, Edith, has fallen into the clutches of unscrupulous pimp, Todd Hardiman, whose evil presence threatens their daily existence.

Befriended by Ned Hawkes and his kindly mother, Nell, Clemency struggles to escape from life in the slums of Stew Lane. She finds work with a troupe of buskers run by larger than life Augustus Throop, and is spotted by the manager of the Strand Theatre. Clemency looks set for operatic stardom, but a chance meeting with the mysterious Jared Stone brings danger and intrigue and threatens to change her life forevermore...

I love sitting down with a good historical novel every now and again and today I have a review of a new re-release to share with all of you, namely Dilly Court's 'The Cockney Sparrow'. I personally wasn't familiar with author Dilly Court before picking up this novel, but I did a bit of research and discovered she has already written 18 novels, also under the name of Lily Baxter, and has quite a following of fans, based on the number of 5-star reviews I found online. Together with the book blurb there was more than enough for me to be curious about and I was looking forward to giving the book a chance and discovering Dilly Court's writing myself!

Set in Victorian London during the time of Jack the Ripper, 'The Cockney Sparrow' tells the story of young Clemency Skinner. Clemency works as a pickpocket in order to take care of her crippled brother Jack, which is something their mother Edith, a drunk and a prostitute, can no longer do. Scared of being caught by her mother's pimp and local villain Todd Hardiman, Clemency uses the beauty of her singing voice to join a group of street musicians, led by Augustus Throop. This appears to be the start of a slightly better life for Clemency and her family, especially when she manages to get a job in a theatre on the West End. But a meeting with the mysterious Jared Stone once again shakes up Clemency's life and it seems she's not yet done with finding a safe place for herself and her family...

'The Cockney Sparrow' was my first Dilly Court book and the novel reminded me a bit of some other novels I've read by authors such as Margaret Graham, Katie Flynn and Ellie Dean. The book focuses on a teenage girl named Clemency, who is doing everything she can to take care of her crippled brother and mother. Clemency is quite feisty and determined and I admired her for her strength to keep on going, no matter what. The story is quite entertaining, as Clemency finds herself in many different situations, meeting people along the way, while trying to make her dream come true of taking care of her family and being able to sing for a living. The author's writing is fast-paced and there were enough things happening to keep the reader's attention and interest.

It's clear the author did her research into the time and setting of the story, namely Victorian London. I love London, and really enjoyed imagining some familiar places in the time of Jack the Ripper, and because of Dilly Field's descriptions it was relatively easy to see it all in my head. I have to admit I wasn't completely convinced by the romance element in the book; I missed the sparks between the characters, but I can imagine others might actually really enjoy it. Overall, 'The Cockney Sparrow' is an enjoyable and well-written historical novel set in Victorian London with a fascinating and easily likeable heroine at its core and an entertaining plotline, and a book that has made me curious to read more of Dilly Court's writing.
For more information about this book: / / Goodreads

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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