BY: TOBIAS GARRETT
The Bleamy family, three strong-willed Scots, are forced to leave their drought-besieged farm for London in 1802. Twelve-year-old Jeremy Bleamy soon loses both parents—his father to consumption and his mother, who jumps from London Bridge in her grief. Now an evicted orphan with less rights than a stray dog, he sets up shelter in a corner between two buildings with all he has left in the world—his parents kitchen table and a few assorted belongings. Lonely, cold, hungry, but too proud to accept charity, he works dangerous jobs to stay alive. He is also constantly threatened by orphan hunters who steal young boys and sell them to factories, as nothing more than slaves. With only his brains and unshakable resolve to help him, Jeremy is caught up in a struggle for his life at a time when the lives of orphans were of no consequence…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Bleamy’s Corner by Tobias Garrett, Jeremy Bleamy is orphaned at twelve years old in London in 1802. Since orphans have less rights than stray dogs and Jeremy has no family to turn to, he is constantly in danger of being stolen by orphan hunters and sold into slavery. Then there are the rival gangs with rules that Jeremy, who is certainly not streetwise, violates without knowing it. Struggling to stay alive, he has to take dangerous jobs while avoiding the cruel and unscrupulous adults who would love to hurt and/or eliminate him. It’s a very hard life for anyone not born into money, but especially for one so young and vulnerable.
Well written, fast paced, and intense, the story has a ring of truth rare in historical fiction. A great read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Bleamy’s Corner by Tobias Garrett is the story of a twelve-year-old boy in London in 1802. Jeremy Bleamy and his parents move to London from Scotland when their farm fails due to the drought. Jeremy’s father promises him a better life, but it is not to be. His father soon succumbs to typhoid and dies. His mother also gets typhoid and, in her grief over losing his father, she commits suicide, leaving Jeremy to fend for himself. She leaves Jeremy a note, telling him to go home to his grandparents who will be glad to take him in. However, when Jeremy writes to his grandparents, he learns that his grandfather has also died, and his grandmother is forced to move in with her sister. There is no room for Jeremy. So he is forced to find his own way in life, taking dangerous jobs, dodging orphan hunters, and dealing with cruel adults with no scruples and even less concern for innocent and vulnerable children.
While the main character is only twelve, this coming-of-age story is not only for young adults. It gives us a window into the past when life was not only hard it was deadly. Well written and authentic, Bleamy’s Corner is a book for young and old alike. A worthy effort from this new author.
Happiness is hard to hold on to.
Baldrich Bleamy, my father, lay bedridden with typhus. The weather was horribly cold this November, 1802, a week before my twelfth birthday. Only a month had passed since our family journeyed from our failed farm in Kilmarnock, Scotland, to London, the “City of Hope.”
I had never heard of such a sickness, but mother said it was common and came from bad air, with which the crowded city was filled. It began with heavy coughing. Then came the fever.
Mother kept me away from him as best she could. “Jeremy, let your father rest. Please don’t get so close to him. We cannot have you fall ill, too.”
It was an awful way to wait for death. Slowly, painfully, he left this world the day before Christmas. It crushed everything I believed in to watch my father leave me. If it killed a strong person such as my father, what chance had I?
My mother began to cry most of the time. His death not only broke her heart, but stole her will to carry on. She stopped talking, eating, and sleeping. Then, as if the world was not mean enough, she too began to cough. Three days later, I saw blood on her handkerchief. I could not bear the thought of her choking to death as my father had.
By the middle of January, my mother’s cough had gotten worse. I was frightened. I retreated to my bed and tried to sleep away the fear, wishing I would awaken from the nightmare.
I did not know if sadness or her sickness caused mother to ignore me, but it happened at the time I needed her most. Her color faded with each day, the sadness heavy in her hollow eyes. When she looked at me, it was as though I was not there. I shuddered. Her sunken eyes would always haunt me.
A week later, as I lay in bed, my mother came to me and kissed me softly on my forehead. Her first affection since my father’s death. I drifted into my best sleep in weeks. But just before dawn, a strange silence woke me. Something was wrong. I could not place my mind upon it, and it itched at me. When my mother kissed me, a tear had fallen upon my cheek. I could still feel the spot where the salt tightened my skin. I arose and looked about the two rooms of our flat. She was not there. Why would she leave in the middle of the night? I put on my wool coat, shoes, knitted hat and hurried out to look for her.
The moon shone hazily through the snowfall, creating a large and saintly halo. The creeping morning tinted the horizon odd shades of red. At the front steps of our building lay a set of fresh and lonely footprints, barely filled with new snow. Stepping into them, my foot fit perfectly. My mother and I shared the same size shoes. My stomach felt sickly as I followed the tracks down Tooley Street—there was not a soul in sight. I had never, in my two months in the city, seen London Bridge so empty. Nothing stirred in any direction. It was as if the world had quietly come to an end, and I, Jeremy Bleamy, was the only person left.
I followed the prints down to the center of the bridge. They led in a small circle then turned to the bridge’s east side. Atop the bridge, the fall to the deadly waters below was blocked only by brick columns spaced about four paces apart. They might stop a wagon from going over, but not my mother. My heart beat hard in my throat as I stood frozen in the quiet.
On shaky legs, I forced my way to the edge where the footprints ended. The snow was packed as if she had paced about for a time. I searched frantically for signs that she had walked away. Seeing none, I peered over the edge into the icy, swift waters of the River Thames.
My mind screamed, “No!” My father gone, and now my mother. What chance did I have in this cold city? I stood unsteadily and saw only one direction for myself—to follow my mother.
It would take little effort. Falling would be easy. The cold water would do the rest.
I crumpled down in the snow and stared down into the black river. Its gentle sound belied that it had just swallowed my mother.
The snowflakes were shinny in the rising sun as they fell, only to have the water also take their lives. The thick snow muffled all sound, save the soft gurgle of the river as it flowed against the legs of the bridge. Inside my head, my breathing was loud, as was my pounding heart. Tears came slowly then became a flood.
The snow steadily covered me and somehow felt warm—a blanket protecting me from the bad things I had seen.
A sign of life interrupted my thoughts—a barking dog—far off and familiar. My mind floated to the past, in Kilmarnock and of my dog Gulliver, back on the farm, and the first hint of a smile parted my lips in weeks.
© 2018 by Tobias Garrett