The Alphabet of Heart’s Desire is a historical fiction based in Victorian London. It follows three very different people and their lives and shows how they intertwine in a very ‘it’s a small world’ kind of way. Our three protagonists are a young woman turned prostitute, a captured and sold slave struggling to adjust to live away from his homeland and a fictionalised version of the real life Thomas De Quincey. What follows is an enjoyable venture through fictional history for about two thirds of the book.
The reason I say two thirds is because of Thomas’s story and dedicated chapters, but more on that soon. This book is split by POV chapters, which I personally love, although I know they divide readers. In this case I think it genuinely helped the pace of the story and was a better way of showing how lives intersect without smacking the reader in the face with it.
“If you can just stop with all this bleeding, there’s a good chance you’ll get out of this alive.”
I looked forward to Anne’s chapters the most – I found her story the most engaging and interesting. Following Anne was Tuah’s story, which was remarkable in its own way. But unfortunately I had little to no interest in Thomas. He just didn’t grip me as much and I’ll be honest, I speed-read a lot of his chapters just to get to the other two. Honestly, I’d have read the whole book just from Anne’s POV – I really liked her.
I didn’t know that this was a fictitious re-telling of a real person when I read it, and I kinda liked the book less after finding that out, as I don’t usually like that sort of thing and don’t actively seek it out. I wonder if it says something that the Thomas chapters were my least favourite and he was based on a real person.
The character development is amazing and believable for the most part, especially with Anne – Tuah was a little deus ex machina at times, but it was forgivable. But again, I struggled with Thomas’s believability. Perhaps this is because all of the questions that were left unanswered were all to do with Thomas; what killed his sister? Why was he kicked out? Who was the French letter from? Who were the people who got rid of Anne?
” ‘Do I disgust you? Is that it? Is it because I’m a whore?’
‘No! Of course not!’
‘Then turn round and look at me.’ “
That being said, despite having these questions I did find that the novel took too long to get to the ‘main event’ – although I understand that the backstory of the characters is important.
The minor characters throughout the novel were all incredibly engaging – especially in Anne’s chapters – honestly, I really would have read just Anne’s story!
This story is very well written – albeit with some spelling and grammar errors. The descriptions of Victorian London in all its elegance and squalor were amazing. Nothing was over-described – we were given just the right amount of descriptive detail to paint a world, without over sharing.
I’m still not sure what the alphabet of heart’s desire means, but I’d highly recommend this for historical fiction lovers.
“But today there was simply not enough Laudanum.”
Fancy giving this book a go? You can check it out here!
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review. I was not paid or sponsored to write this review – all the opinions are honest and my own.