Title: A Twist of Fortune
Author: Barbara Mitchel Hill
The award winning author of ‘Run Rabbit Run’ has produced a thrilling Victorian historical fiction novel. It follows the tale of Sam Pargeter who through a series of unfortunate circumstances ends up head of his family; his sister Eliza and little brother Alfie and responsible for finding them food and a home. This is no easy task for children in Victorian England however as everyone seems to be against them. However they decide to set off in search of their rich grandfather with their dog Patch and their favourite book Oliver Twist, hoping that he will help them. It is a heart-warming story which does not conceal the injustice and brutality of the Victorian society towards children at the time. It also has some wonderful characters, including Charles Dickens himself and exciting villains. The children are forced to live in Devils Acre, an area of London crammed with criminals, misery and insufferable poverty, then are accused of murder and also end up trapped in a terrible school where the children sleep on stone floors and sweep chimneys. However there are also themes of family, bravery and strength in this book for children who had to grow up far too soon but are determined to find happiness and be reunited with their family. There is trouble at every corner for the Pargeter children and more importantly will their grandfather accept them, after disowning their father for marrying a poor woman? Will he even recognise them if they don’t have their father’s and Aunt Maud’s letters in mother’s silver box?
The children’s adventure makes this novel a page-turner, but it also reveals a lot about living in Victorian England and their attitudes towards the poor as well as the effects of early industrialisation and the railways. It is also written convincingly in the style of a Victorian boy and we learn how Sam is forced to become the man of a family, even though starvation has given him the frame of a small boy, in order to save his younger siblings. Yet the family always stick together, and with Sam’s careful planning and Eliza’s beautiful singing voice and Alfie’s innocent charm, perhaps the family might one day find happiness?