Petals in the Ashes
1665. In this sequel to At the Sign of the Sugared Plum, sisters Sarah and Hannah escape from plague-ridden London, together with baby Grace, whose mother has died. Grace’s family fear infection, so the refugees have to spend 40 days quarantined in the pest house. Once freed, the sisters stay with Grace’s aristocratic aunt for some months before returning to their parents’ home.
May, 1666. The plague is over. Hannah and her younger sister Anne go to London to restore their sweet shop. But London has changed and many people have died, including Hannah’s sweetheart, Tom. Hannah is devastated. Then, on a visit to the King’s Theatre (courtesy of Nell Gwyn, who likes their violet comfits), she thinks she sees Tom as the assistant to Count De’ath, a magician performing there. Later, when they visit the famous Bartholomew Fair, she spots him again…
But then comes a further calamity which could destroy everything. Fire! Hannah and Anne flee for their lives and, in the stampede to escape, they lose each other…
I enjoyed this book for its graphic dramatization of a momentous event in London’s history. The noise, smell, terror, etc., are vividly evoked. I also liked the contemporary recipes for rose water, etc., at the back of the book. However, I have to say that plot, that is emotional conflict which will test the characters and show their mettle, scarcely exists. Still, the burning of London scenes are certainly exciting enough to keep one’s interest.
One serious caveat is that the story proper only begins on page 65. Sarah, Grace, and her aunt’s elegant house disappear, and we start afresh with Hannah and Anne returning to London. Structurally, it is not very satisfactory and it could confuse any reader who hasn’t read the first book.
For girls aged 10 plus.
This book is the sequel to At the Sign of the Sugared Plum. You really need to have read the first book before you read this one, because it starts off exactly where the last book ended and refers to things that happened in the previous book.
The plot was very interesting, but the blurb said it was about the Fire of London, when actually it was also about the plague and getting over the plague. The part to do with the Fire of London only came right at the end of the book. I enjoyed reading the love story inside the main plot. The characters were described quite well and you get a good impression of their looks and characteristics.
I found the book a very good read.