The Quietness centres round two girls, Queenie and Ellen. They year is 1870, and they are both living in London, but other than that they have very little in common, and at the beginning of the book it's not obvious how their lives, one lived in poverty and the other in upper middle-class comfort, can ever intermesh. One longs for quiet: the other has too much of it.
Meanwhile, not so very far away, Ellen is materially well-cared for, with beautiful dresses and jewels and a comfortable home. Her father is a doctor, but he is strangely cold - her mother even more so. So when a handsome cousin, Jacob, comes to stay, Ellen is only too ready to fall for his sweet words and flattery. But it turns out that he is not what he seems. Ellen falls victim to all of them. In her deepest despair, the only person who is kind to her is Queenie.
We all know from Dickens and others how terrible urban poverty was in Victorian times, and this book paints an unflinching picture of its horrors. The stories of Ellen and Queenie also reveal the hypocrisy of the wealthier classes, and the complete dependence of women from the wealthier classes on their menfolk. Their stories are terrible, and the ending is not an easy one, but the book is passionate and richly-coloured, with two central characters who will not easily be forgotten.
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