Random House Delacorte, 2015Source: ARC through Netgalley
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
*I'd like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest and fair review.
Josephine Montfort lives in New York in the late 1800s, a member of the elite upper class. Her life has been planned out for her--a life of ease, married to the most eligible bachelor, and having babies. When Jo's father dies unexpectedly in an accident, she isn't able to accept that it was a freak accident and decides to challenge what she's been told. With the help of Eddie, a young reporter who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, Jo begins to peel away the layers of her perfect life and discover the truth behind her father's death.
Jo is torn throughout most of the novel. She's independent, interested in journalism, and wants to change the world. She has read Nellie Bly's expose of the treatment of the mentally ill and Jo has taken this to heart. This is what she wants to do, but it's also something that is impossible for her to do. Ladies of her station do not write for papers, and marrying Abraham Aldrich means she is marrying into one of the richest and most prestigious families, a mirror of her own. It's what's expected and despite what Jo wants, she wants her family to be happy as well.
We see this struggle throughout the story. Right away, when Jo's father is dead, she knows it wasn't an accident. There is no way her father would have accidently shot himself while cleaning his gun, however she can't voice this opinion because she should not have an opinion. She has to look for the truth in secret and with the help of Eddie, a reporter for the paper her family owns.
Eddie is set up as the opposite to Bram. He's brash, outspoken, and unknown. He is annoyed by Jo's helplessness at times (which only spurns her on to make more decisions that may not be in her best interest). I like Eddie, but he still angered me, and sometimes more than Bram. Maybe it's because I was able to get to know Eddie more than Bram, but it's also because even though he's supposed to represent some form of freedom for Jo, Eddie still treats her like she can't do anything. He tells her again and again and again that she can't come along with him on any investigative trips because they're too dangerous for her. He won't let her. It's true that it's dangerous, but mostly because she's so clueless that she'll get herself in trouble by saying the wrong thing.
These Shallow Graves is a little slow at the beginning. Jo sneaks out with Eddie, they learn something new, Jo is shocked and contemplates what this means for her family and her life and it starts over again. But don’t let that stop you. Suddenly you're realizing what Jo hasn't yet and you must find out immediately how it all turns out and what other information will be revealed. I figured some things out pretty quickly--I don't think it was too difficult t--but this mystery is more intricate than what you expect at first and as more and more is revealed you'll be tweaking your assumptions until you find out the truth.
I really enjoyed These Shallow Graves. Books that are written in the Victorian age and explore women's roles and the repression of women--no matter what their class--are interesting to me. I thought that Jennifer Donnelly's exploration of this was well done as she attempted to balance it between not only girls in Jo's social world, but those of criminals, and poor working girls. There is a definite connection being made between the social classes. At times it highlights the similarities and at other times how utterly different their worlds could be. I also appreciated how clueless Jo was, and even more so her friends and family were, about the realities of the opposite side of life.
These Shallow Graves is available on October 27th. Preorder it today and you can get all cozy with a great mystery this Halloween weekend!
Check back on the 27th for a more detailed look at Jo in my Character Spotlight!
Image Source: Goodreads
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