Monday 20 June 2016

Review Time! - These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Title: These Shallow Graves

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Crime

Amazon: UK - USA

A few starting notes:

I received a free digital review copy of this book via NetGalley. NetGalley provides review copies from publishers in exchange for fair and honest reviews.

I had the chance to read this ahead of it coming out in a new paperback edition from Bonnier Publishing/Hot Key Books, and as it was on my TBR list anyways, I of course jumped at the chance.

(There may have been some actual jumping involved... just saying.)


Jo Montfort is one of New York city's upper class.

Her seemingly perfect world of Victorian high-society balls is hiding a lot of secrets.

And her father's death is not as it seems.

Jo's world is about to come crumbling down. But she will find out the truth.

Best bits:

A well-woven historical setting, full of secrets and intrigue? Donnelly is spoiling us here guys!

Even more evocative is Jo herself.

I truly loved her unique blend of determination, strength, and sheltered naivety, as well as her interactions and chemistry with other characters.

Basically, Jo is amazing.

And this book has a lot to say: about women and feminism, about poverty, about corruption, about doing what's right.

There's a lot of ground covered here, but in the sub-text and subtle realisations, rather than soap-box style ranting.

Even the love triangle/rectangle (depending on which way you squint) has original twists and turns, and isn't irritating (*praises the reading gods*.)

The sub-plots feel relevant and everything is tangled together beautifully; the characters are vivid, the prose well-written.

You will love the dynamic between Jo and Eddie - a reporter who's helping her get to the bottom of just what the hell is going on here. It brings a variety of the feels, and is just fab.

Seriously, could you want anything more than this from your historical fiction? ;)

Not so great bits:

This is not a quick read. Even though the chapters are short, it does require perseverance and some actual effort on the part of the reader.

While I didn't mind this, it will put a lot of people off.

And that trapped, hemmed-in, frustration, that Jo feels? The reader's feeling it too.

Now, on the one hand this shows some considerable skill on Donnelly's part, because the ability to use the prose to mirror Jo's feelings in the actual words? That takes some doing.

On the other hand, when the prose feels claustrophobic and restricted? You're going to get frustrated. And that's frustrating ;)

There's also violence and forensics-style gore (ok, I'm starting to sound like those randomly specific warnings before TV programmes,) and a couple of references to sexy-times.

But it keeps to the YA-vibe by not going too far down the sexy-times path.


OK, so you're going to have to put some effort in. But, you know what? It's worth it.

This is one of those books that is so different from what you were expecting - and is all the more awesome for it.

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  1. I love historical fiction, and I so wish that I read more of it. This looks like a great unique read, thanks for the review!

    1. No problem :) And yeah, I love historical fiction :)

  2. I got a surprise ARC of this recently and I'm kiiiind of nervous because I don't do well with slow books! I DO love feministic books with epic writing though, so hopefully I'll still enjoy it?!? I'm glad it was a mostly wonderful read for you. :D

    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    1. It does have short chapters though - which is handy with slow books!

      Thanks for the fab comment :)

  3. I actually really want to read this one so I'm entirely curious about it! I love the sound of this one crossing over into a lot of themes like feminism and so on, but the narrative voice seems like it could have used a bit more work.

    1. I really enjoyed it! But it's not a fast-paced one, def. It requires a bit of patience - but if I can manage it then anyone can!


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