Title: People of Abandoned Character
Author: Clare Whitfield
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery and Thriller, Historical Fiction
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of historical fiction centring on Jack the Ripper or set in the Victorian era, fans of mystery and thrillers
CW: domestic abuse, violence, death, anti-Semitism*
*I did feel uncomfortable with the casual anti-Semitism (Jewish characters facing prejudice from other characters). Whilst I can understand the sentiments do not necessarily reflect the author or the protagonist, rather the common prejudices held at that time, I’d like to inform readers it’s there. Also, this does not occur often and the protagonist questions the notions.
An absolute ripper of a book. What would you do if you suspected the man you loved and married was a serial killer?
People of Abandoned Character is a grim and brutal atmospheric thriller convoluted with abrupt twists and dark turns. Some twists I anticipated whilst others were unexpected. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the tumultuous ride and devoured this book in one sitting.
Set in 1880’s Victorian England, this novel follows a young woman named Susannah, as she navigates her life from ward nurse to a newly wedded wife. Charmed by the enigmatic surgeon Thomas, Susannah is swept off her feet into a sudden advantageous marriage. The promise of a life of stability with a loving husband is new and exciting to Susannah. However, upon returning from their honeymoon their once sweet kisses turn sour as Thomas’ endearing demeanour changes. Thomas who was once attentive, devoted, and charming becomes cold, surly, and volatile. With the rising coincidental spikes in crime and her husband’s erratic behaviour, Susannah grows suspicious. What if Thomas is the fearsome murderer?
First, I must mention the two major factors that made me thoroughly enjoy this book: the narration and the protagonist. Upon reading the first few pages, I instantly fell in love with the narration. Written in first-person, the voice is distinct and gripping yet humorous at times. The story is well-paced with an engaging protagonist. Susannah is an intriguing character who is both determined yet naïve and unconventional and I enjoyed witnessing the story unfurl from her perspective.
Originally from a lower social class and having little to no prospects, Susannah is no stranger to the poor, unfortunate circumstances and sometimes violent ends women face in that era. Despite that, we witness Susannah grapple society’s expectation using her quick wit and determination. Throughout the novel, you can’t help but cheer for Susannah. Often berated by her grandmother of being a person of abandoned character, Susannah examines herself, questioning her morality and decisions. However, as the audience, we can’t help but empathise with Susannah and her actions despite her flaws.
Also, this book explores aspects such as class and gender, presenting fascinating insight whilst drawing attention to the disparity between the rich and poor and the inequality between men and women. A sad tune that still rings true till this day.
Overall, this was a compelling read with great pacing and intriguing twists. I enjoyed this thoroughly (and was satisfied with the ending!) and would recommend this book. Now I cannot wait for my Goldsboro copy to arrive.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher (Head of Zeus) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.