Victorian England has rarely been so entertaining. Ivy is a story filled with characters. And by that I mean Characters. Almost everyone that fills this book will amuse you with their ridiculousness. There are the charity women we meet from the Ragged Children’s Welfare Association, who have a list of who is most deserving to be offered a place at their school (including "children of worthless drunken parents and children of those suitable for the workhouse but living, instead, a semicriminal life"). Luckily Ivy and her cousin Orlando meet several of the regulations and are offered a chance for an education.
Perhaps not so lucky is that Ivy wanders away her first day of class and meets Carroty Kate. A member of a not so awful band of thieves who lure children into alleys so that they can steal all their clothes.
If this sounds a bit dark and dire, it isn’t. Hearn plays everything for laughs. The setting of Victorian England is a perfect backdrop for this story where everyone is scheming, intrigues abound, and our poor Ivy is beset by everyone trading her around for a few shillings.
Interestingly enough, I was a bit disappointed by the missed opportunities for even more humor. Ivy is employed by an artist that we can only assume is not very talented. In fact, one assumes he is a grossly untalented hack with an inflated idea of his skills because his rather deranged mother pumps up his ego. At one point in the book Ivy asks to see his finished piece and he practically jumps out of his skin to keep her from seeing it. I would have loved to have seen Ivy’s reaction to the (presumed) monstrosity of a painting that she had suffered hungry pythons, cold rivers, and a variety of more potentially deadly adversaries to pose for (like the artist’s mom – hoo boy! She was fantastically terrible. One of my favorite characters).
This is a fabulous historical fiction that will have the reader laughing out loud.