Review: The Beloved by Alison Rattle

Saturday, 4 April 2015

23524576The Beloved by Alison Rattle
Released: 5th March 2015
Published by: Hot Key Books
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Pages: 286
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
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Escape from a bullying mother takes one young woman to an even more dangerous place. Alice Angel has known only a life of rules, restriction and punishments as she strays from the rigid path of Victorian proprietary that her mother has set out for her. A constant disappointment to all but her doting father, she longs for the day that she might break free from the stifling atmosphere of her mother's rule. After a chance encounter with a charming stranger, and a final incident with her family that sees her condemned to the madhouse, Alice sees her opportunity to run and grasps it with both hands.

She escapes to join the Agapemonites in their Abode of Love, where ex-Reverend Henry Prince rules his isolated colony of women as their Beloved. Prince ignites a passion in Alice that she never knew existed, and she dares to think she might be free at last. But as Alice becomes more deeply drawn into the life of Prince's strange religious sect, secrets are revealed that seem to hint at a darker nature lurking behind the man's charm.

Instead of freedom, is Alice in fact more trapped, alone and in danger than ever before?
Thank you to Five Mile Press for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

I have done some terrible things lately. I want to be forgiven. I want to be a good person, the person they all expect me to be. I have seen and I have heard you talk. I think you understand. Can you help me?

I have some mixed feelings about The Beloved which I'll go into further, but overall I can say that it was quite a fascinating read, if somewhat disturbing in places. I was quite surprised to find out in the historical notes that this is based on factual events, which does in hindsight make Alice's experiences in the 'Abode of Love' even more chilling. 

Now, onto what I liked and didn't so much:

Things I wasn't so impressed by:

  • Dual POV's
This isn't something I'd usually comment on, since generally I find having two perspectives on a story's events as a great narrative device. However, in this case it didn't flow as well as it could have. Alice's sections in first person, then going into third person from her mother Temperance and brother Eli's take on things did in some ways slow the pace in the middle. While the plot thickened once Alice had escaped her oppressive environment to the enigmatic 'Abode of Love' and I liked the immediacy of her first person account, the interjections from Eli in trying to find her weren't always the most interesting to read about.
  • Alice...sometimes?

Our protagonist Alice may be a little mad (it is hard to tell), bit in any case she has some issues and makes some questionable decisions which were quite stupid.

Though I did find her naivety at times irritating, it's this characteristic which placed her in the volatile situation she ended up in - and without that, there would be no story. So while she wasn't the most likable main character, it's these imperfections which did make her perceptive at least at the beginning, before being blinded by the promises of a 'better' life.

What I liked:

  • Family dynamics
This was more in the early stages of the book, but it was interesting to see how Alice's family worked. There were some stereotypes: The evil, vain mother, the doting 'golden child' as Alice's brother Eli, and the kinder more understanding father who seemed to understand Alice better than anyone. However, despite the tropes being there, it nonetheless makes a story a whole lot more juicier when there are these underlying dynamics at play.
  • Character development
Yes, I did find Alice annoying at the start, and in the middle I was going 'Can't you tell this is weird?! Do something, run away!', she did eventually get a backbone and took charge of her own fate. 


How blind I have been. I thought there were only two choices, but there is a world of choice out there and it's time to find my way now. 
  • Turning facts into dynamic fiction

The 'Abode of Love' was an actual religious sect founded in 1846 by Henry Prince, which did cause quite a scandal. In the story it's clear that there is indeed trouble in 'Paradise', and things certainly aren't what they seem. The beauty of historical fiction is that you can take these elements from the past and recreate them with a backstory of a fictional character who experiences something not too far off from what could have actually occurred. 


Though I did have my few qualms with it, The Beloved was a satisfactory read which intrigued me with its interpretation of actual events. Where manipulative corruption can be masked by such wholesome promises, this story shows how difficult it can be to really find the light among the lies.


  1. Ooh, this one sounds intriguing. I don't pick up nearly enough Historical YA, so maybe I'll give it a go some day. I also love the sound of the characterization and family dynamics. Great review! Ordinarily not something I would usually pick up, but you never know, I might like it. :)

    1. Thanks Kara :) It is definitely worth a try since it's not too heavy on the historical detail but is so fascinating since it is based on the facts. The characters and family dynamics definitely make this a page turner.


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