Saturday 1 June 2013

Book review : The Double Life of Cora Parry - Angela McAllister

The Double Life of Cora Parry transports the reader back to the seedy underworld of Victorian era London. When little orphan Cora is taken from the harsh conditions of the workhouse and adopted by the benevolent Elijah Parry, it looks as if she has found her happy ending. After his death, however, his less charitable widow decides that the little girl must earn her keep and treats her as a servant. But that's not the end of her pains. When Martha Parry in turn passes away, her brother turns up and belligerently throws out Cora, dropping her off at the workhouse gates so that she can go back where she belongs.

The workhouse is such a daunting and hopeless prospect that Cora prefers to try her luck living on the streets. Her path crosses that of Fletch, who takes Cora under her wing and makes sure that she survives on the streets - but one good turn deserves another, and Cora will soon discover how Fletch thinks she can return the favour. 

For much of the first part of the book, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was reading a retelling of Dicken's great classic Oliver Twist, albeit with a feminine slant. I could almost imagine Fletch launching into a heartfelt rendition of "You've got to pick a pocket or two girl, you've got to pick a pocket or two" ! But author Angela McAllister has woven in an extra plotline which helps keep you interested - the double life mentioned in the title.

At several points in the story, Cora seems to come across her doppelgänger, a girl in a red dress and black cloak who crosses her path then disappears. Who is this mysterious lookalike? Is she purely a figment of Cora's imagination or just a random stranger with a passing resemblance? Or is there something more sinister going on?

Well, I'm not going to tell you - you'll have to read the book to find out ! It was an enjoyable read but there were a few storylines that I hoped would go a bit further, in particular Fletch (I was expecting a comeback right up until the final page) and the mysterious girl, which I thought could have been pushed much further. I felt that there were still quite a few unanswered questions at the end of the book which left me feeling slightly frustrated.

This is an adult perspective though, and the book targets tweens and teens. 11-year-old Sophie loved it and said that the atmosphere reminded her of Jacqueline Wilson's Hettie Feather, which just happens to be her favourite book.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £6.99

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Orion Childrens (4 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444006762
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444006766
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 1.8 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Book review : Ketchup Clouds – Annabel Pitcher

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