This novel is an historical fiction story aimed at children. Mr Sheridan the playwright finds an orphaned baby and brings her up in the Drury Lane Theatre, naming her Catherine [Cat] Royal. She lives there as a sort of mascot, maid-cum-runabout at the theatre where her main job includes tidying, and acting as a prompt during shows.
Cat overhears Mr Sheridan and a man named Marchmont talking about hiding a diamond in the theatre, this thus starts the problem which spans the entire novel 'Where (or who) is the diamond?'.
This story is written from Cat’s viewpoint as a child who knows she was unwanted, but feels privileged to lead a life behind the scenes of the theatre, running errands, watching the best shows and plays in London and sleeping amongst the costumes in the attics.
After an accident with one of the props, Cat ends up dangling from the platforms above the stage. Pedro, a young black boy who has a genius for the violin, saves her life but then runs off, Cat goes to find him and they run into a local gang of criminal boys led by Billy ‘Boil’ Shepherd– but attracts some punishment herself. Cat is gutsy and charming, and also pragmatic – in that she shrugs off life’s injustices as something she has been dealt and must put up with.
The story begins in the luscious atmosphere of the theatre and extends to the filthy alleyways and markets of London which are Cat’s playground. She mingles with the high and low of society, from the actors on stage to the lords and ladies in the stalls to the barrow boys in the grimy marketplace. The tale is packed with local colour and authentic detail. There is, of course the mystery of the diamond to be revealed too.
I found this story and Cat’s characterisation delightful, and as an introduction for young people to the world of historical fiction, an excellent book and highly recommended.
This novel is part of a series which includes: "Cat Amoung the Pigeons", "Den of Thieves", "Cat O'Nine Tails" and "Black Heart of Jamaica".