Thursday, February 06, 2020

Review: The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick

Title: The Girls with No Names
Author: Serena Burdick
Published: January 2020, Park Row Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 336 pages
Source: Netgalley

The Girls with No Names pulls readers into the gilded age of New York City in the 1910s, when suffragettes marched in the street, unions fought for better work conditions—and girls were confined to the House of Mercy for daring to break the rules.

Not far from Luella and Effie Tildon’s large family mansion in Inwood looms the House of Mercy, a work house for wayward girls. The sisters grow up under its shadow with the understanding that even as wealthy young women, their freedoms come with limits. But when the sisters accidentally discover a shocking secret about their father, Luella, the brazen older sister, becomes emboldened to do as she pleases.

But her rebellion comes with consequences, and one morning Luella is mysteriously gone. Effie suspects her father has made good on his threat to send Luella to the House of Mercy and hatches a plan to get herself committed to save her sister. But she made a miscalculation, and with no one to believe her story, Effie’s escape from the House of Mercy seems impossible—unless she can trust an enigmatic girl named Mable. As their fates entwine, Mable and Effie must rely on each other and their tenuous friendship to survive.

The Home for Unwanted Girls meets The Dollhouse in this atmospheric, heartwarming story that explores not only the historical House of Mercy, but the lives—and secrets—of the girls who stayed there.

My thoughts: Every once in a while I will admit that I am completely drawn to a book by the cover and that was definitely the case with this one - there's something about this cover that just draws me in. But then, once I read that the book was set in New York City during the Gilded Age, I was completely sold...I am completely fascinated by this time period and of course, love any and all books set in New York City.

Right from the beginning I was drawn into this story. I felt it perfectly balances the character development with the historical setting, so you get a pretty balanced picture of what was going on during this time. While it is a little slow in the beginning, I feel this was more to set it all up, because once all the players were introduced, things really get moving and you will be hard-pressed to put the book down. 

This book will take you on an emotional journey as you follow along with the sisters, the mother, and Mable. It truly shows just how strong the bond between sisters is as well as how damaging secrets can be. I loved the fortitude and strength that was shown by these characters and was completely invested in all their stories.

As I love with historical fiction, I learned a lot in this book and will certainly be doing my own research into some of the topics brought up in this book, particularly the House of Mercy. I've heard it referenced before, but did not know the extent of it's horrors. Of course, you have to take into account the state of the times, but still, how a family could willingly turn their daughters over to a place like that is beyond me. 

This is the first book I've read by Serena Burdick but it definitely won't be the last. Her writing was beautiful and while it is a heavy book, it is so well done that you just can't help but keep reading. This is certainly the type of book that will stay with you long after you finish it. 


1 comment

  1. The 1910s was a hard era for women. I just read one set on Coney Island and I did feel for all the women in the story.
    Thanks for the review. I will be looking out for this one.


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