Primary Genre(s): Historical Fiction, General Fiction
Published: 7 January 2020 by Park Row
Page count: 336
My Format: free eARC
Would I recommend it: Yes
Commission Link: Buy The Girls with No Names
My rating: ★★★☆☆
Synopsis from Goodreads
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.
This book wasn’t quite what I expected, but I did find some things to like about it. Here are my pros and cons for The Girls with No Names:
- I love any book that is even remotely based on a true story or real people. The House of Mercy is a very real place and you can read more about it here. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire is also mentioned in the book. A lot of the health and safety requirements for workers, particularly with regard to building access and egress, alarm systems, availability of fire extinguishers, and sprinkler requirements came about because of this horrific fire. Even Inez Milholland – a lawyer and suffragist – is mentioned in the book.
- The story was told from three different POVs – Effie, her mother Jeanne, and an unrelated girl named Mabel. The three voices were effective in providing different points of view from females and their lives during the early 20th Century.
- I thought this was a good story about how women and girls, particularly poor ones, were viewed and treated in this time period. Mabel’s story was particularly compelling because it was her story that really described the life of a poor girl during this time period and how a life could be completely turned upside down from lack of a basic education or a mistake.
- I was generally happy with the ending – particularly for Mabel.
- Once we were introduced to Mabel, I found myself becoming more and more uninterested in the Jeanne and Effie chapters. Mabel was so compelling that her story eclipsed everything else.
- I think this book needed some focus. Honestly, this might have been a better book altogether if the story had focused on Mabel and left the entire Tildon family out of the story.
- I wanted more about the House of Mercy! The synopsis states that the story “explores not only the historical House of Mercy, but the lives – and secrets – of the girls who stayed there”. That is stretching it a bit in my opinion. We really only got the story of two girls that were there and all we really learned about the House of Mercy is that they operated a laundry and the nuns were mean. I really wanted more detail.
- Effie liked to write stories and some of these stories were interspersed in the narrative. While somewhat cute and whimsical at times, overall I thought this was distracting and added no real value to the book overall.
Mabel is the hero of this book hands down. She is what makes this book worth reading. After Mabel entered the story, the rest became filler to me. It isn’t a bad story as written, I just think it lacked some focus and I definitely wanted more historical detail than I got.
I would recommend this book to anyone that is interested in early 20th century history, and particularly in how women were treated during that period.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher (Park Row) for a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy The Girls with No Names. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!
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(image from Goodreads)