The Testing of Rose Alleyn
England in the year 1900. A vibrant young woman must take control of her destiny.
Vivien Freeman’s atmospheric novel brings late Victorian England hauntingly to life in the mind of the reader. In this beautifully written romance, we explore the choices facing an independent-minded woman at a time when women struggled for self-determination.
I haven’t read a book written in the first person, present tense, for a while, and although it took me a little time to get into the flow of it, I really enjoyed being in Rose’s head as we meet the key people in her life: her housemates, her landlady, her brothers, and mostly, her employer Leonard Pritchard.
Living and working in the town of Widdock, sixteen-year-old Rose is a bookworm, and encouraged to be so by her employer in the local bookshop. This is a sequel, following The Escape of Rose Alleyn, but I read it without having read the first, and still found myself utterly engaged in Rose’s life and her story. The prose is beautifully-written, capturing the characters of the town, but also the time and ‘sense’ of 1900 England, with talk of both factories and countryside, as well as great details about general daily life, such as the food on the table, and the clothes the characters are wearing.
Also heavily present is the camaraderie between the women and girls living together, especially when dark tales of childhood come out, or when Rose herself falls ill.
Overall, this is a book full of gorgeous detail, and I’d definitely recommend it to fans of the period, as well as the genre.
Vivien Freeman grew up in North London and graduated in Art History from the University of East Anglia before settling in Ware, Hertfordshire. A published poet as well as a novelist, she taught Creative Writing for many years and has an M.A. in Scriptwriting from Salford University. She now lives in rural Wales in the Vale of Glamorgan with her husband, the poet, John Freeman.