First Lines: I woke up next to a dead woman.
If you’ve been reading my blog for long, y’all know I like weird books. I love me some supernatural (the paranormal as well as the show of the same name) and a historical fiction with a paranormal twist was definitely on my radar.
London, 1888. As if Evelyn, a disfigured teenage girl, didn’t have enough to worry about by being homeless and ugly in the Whitechapel district, Jack the Ripper is on the loose. Self-conscious from the accident that ruined her face, Evelyn accepts a position as a maid in the local hospital for The Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick. Evelyn wants to be locked away from the world like Joseph, so people can’t see face. But in Joseph, she finds a kindred soul and a true friend, one who understands her pain. When the Ripper starts killing his victims, however, Joseph and Evelyn are haunted nightly by the ghosts of the dead women. To help them, Evelyn will have to face her fears and discover the darkest secrets of human nature…
This wasn’t a bad story. The plot was intriguing enough to pull me in. Evelyn, a young girl suffering from a facial deformity after exposure to white phosphorus, joins a hospital as a maid for the Elephant Man. But things take a turn when the ghosts of the Ripper’s victims begin showing up. It’s an interesting premise.
I liked Evelyn and Joseph, the Elephant Man. They were both interesting characters trying to reconcile that they would never be “normal”. They were both sweet and charming in their own ways, and I liked that. I think sometimes we forget that in these darker time and places (like Whitechapel in 1888 or the Middle Ages or whatever) that there were still optimists, still innocents, still people who make the best of a bad situation with a smile on their face.
I liked this running theme of who/what actually is a monster. Is it someone who looks different from everyone else? Is it someone who lives on the outskirts of society or someone who exploits those who do? Is it someone who ignores a crime or someone who commits a crime? It’s a truly compelling question that gets (indirectly) asked over and over in the story. And I liked that a lot.
I was actually a little indifferent about the whole Ripper thing. For as big as it was for the plot, it almost didn’t make any sense to me. It felt like it was this subplot that really didn’t need to be there. And there were some things with each of the girls that just made me want to roll my eyes and move on. Some of the facts were very interesting, and it goes a little more in-depth on who the women were as people rather than simply recounting their grisly murders. I appreciated that, at least.
I don’t think there was much about this that I didn’t like, but I was just generally indifferent to the story. I wanted to keep reading just because I wanted to say that I’d read this book, not because the story was compelling. Not much about this stood out.
Actually, my one complaint is that there wasn’t any kind of author’s note at the end to explain what was fact and what was fiction. While I know quite a bit about the Ripper’s victims, I knew absolutely nothing about the Elephant Man. Zippo, zero, nada. So it would have been nice to have something about him since he’s a main character. But I’m a history buff, so this is the stuff I look forward to reading.
It’s not a bad story; it just wasn’t particularly astounding. It was probably a bit forgettable.