A young girl tries to make her way in the slums of 19th-century London in Annand's debut novel.
Gladys Tunner is born into poverty to alcoholic parents unable to properly care for her. But as an attractive and charming young girl, she finds allies in fellow youth Toughie and a midwife named Sally, both of whom protect her and teach her how to survive. But Gladys has to flee her home after her parents attempt to sell her for a night to their landlord, forcing her to make a life of her own in the English countryside, a world she never knew existed. Helped along the way by strangers, Gladys uses her wit and quick thinking to move through the class hierarchy that once kept her family in squalor. The story moves quickly but at the cost of character development and context that could meaningfully place the reader in the chaos and danger of the times. Instead, the author relies on shallow stereotypes and one-dimensional characters, with brief passages of dialogue that read as wooden and unnatural. For example, when she fears she has killed someone, Gladys says to the man who helps her flee to a train station, "There's one leaving for somewhere called Dover at four in the morning. That's not long, Mr O, so don't you worry about me; I can wait alone. You had better go home, or Mrs O will be worried." The 19th-century England that Gladys lives in is full of abnormally perceptive people, strangers ready to offer a helping hand, and no sense of true danger for a young girl with no formal education or social standing. It’s not only unbelievable, but ultimately tedious.
What could be an examination of class distinctions in Victorian England disappoints with unrealistic characters and turns of good fortune.