These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly | Audiobook Review

Why Did I Listen To This Audiobook?

I am such a huge Jennifer Donnelly fangirl. Well, to an extent. I do not love those mermaid books, but I love her more mature young adult books and have had those Tea Rose books on my TBR for pretty much forever. When I came across These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly on netgalley I sort of screamed and did this jump up and immediate download thing because holler at auto-approval when it comes in handy for one of your favorite authors of all time ever.

Then, things got even better when the audiobook showed up via email thanks to Listening Library. I will say that I immediately jumped on that and put it right on my phone and started listening essentially as soon as my previous audiobook finished. Y’all, this was one of the better life choices that I have made. What a wonderful audiobook. I cannot speak highly enough of both book and audiobook.

What’s The Story Here?

Jennifer Donnelly’s These Shallow Graves opens up with main character Josephine Montfort and a few other characters exhuming a grave. That’s for a few pages, then we rewind back in time. Josephine is at Miss Sparkwell’s finishing school. She writes articles for the school newspaper even though they do not get published because they are not recipes or stories about cats. Instead, her articles are hard hitting and about the lower classes. You see, Jo is from the upper echelon of New York City. This book is set during the industrial era and her family is among those old blood industrial titans. Jo’s life is just about set. Her friend Bram Aldridge is fabulously wealthy and the two are all but engaged. Yet, this is all about to crumble down, because like many other women of this era, Jo lives within a gilded cage.

One day two of Jo’s friends – Bram included – visit her at school. She assumes it is because their father has died. She is wrong. It is her father who has died, when a gun he was cleaning accidentally discharged on his face. Jo then leaves school and goes to her Gramercy Park home. Feeling stiffled, she leaves the house on a pretense to deliver an inheritance to the editor of the newspaper her father owned. There, she hears reporters talking about his death but it turns out it wasn’t accident but suicide. Jo is not quite sure why her father would commit suicide and this horrifies her. So, anyways, she gives the editor the inheritance and goes home, but the news reporter, named Eddie, accompanies Jo as it might be dangerous for her. There, she questions him.

Long story short, Jo finds her father’s agenda and from what I remember, initials in it – EC, a woman, with a birthdate, so she begins digging into the circumstances of her father’s death. What she uncovers is a mystery that goes quite deep. Along the way, she makes friends with Eddie, Fay – a street urchin who is a pickpocket and actually the best, Tumbler, and more. She learns just how different life is outside Gramercy Park and a whole other side of New York. The truth, though, in regards to Jo’s father’s death just might set her free, as the adage goes.

What Did I Think Of Jo As A Character?

You guys the protagonist of Jennifer Donnelly’s These Shallow Graves is totally a character whose fan club I would be a card carrying member of. I loved Jo, despite her privilege. I loved that she was naive about things like hookers. Also, I loved that she genuinely cared about her lower class friends. I love that she has some hard decisions to make, but she stands by her choices, even at detriment. And I love that like a true reporter, it is the truth above all else that matters to her. Additionally, I loved her tenacity and her gumption. She reminded me a bit of Mattie, except I thought her ending was a bit more happy in spite of a few things. I just, I loved Jo and how tenacious these was.

How’s The Romance?

Heck yes the romance within These Shallow Graves is on fleek y’all. Okay, so there’s kind of a love triangle, but we all know which one Jo truly wants and which one we readers are rooting for. Donnelly has this beautiful way of capturing a first kiss and all of the longing behind it. She captures how hard it is to want something you think you can’t have. She adds some stakes to the romance as well – where there is sacrifice involved no matter what choice Jo makes. I thought this romance was just so well done and I was so completely invested.

What About The Writing Style?

I think other people were disappointed by those mermaid books, like I was. Rest assured this is a return to the Donnelly we love, the same writing style behind Revolution and A Northern Light. Her writing is to the point where if I was reading a physical copy, I would mark the pages for re-reading over and over. Her writing is simply lovely – cutting to some serious truths about femininity and gilded cages and privilege, but without beating you over the head with it. Also? She has a knack for bringing the past to life with These Shallow Graves.

How Is The Narration?

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly is narrated by Kim Bubbs. I’ve never heard of Bubbs, but you heard it here, get her on your radar. Her voice is perfect for this book. It is infused with emotion and upper class accent. She has a gift for pace and moving the book along perfectly. I loved listening to this book. Toward the end, when I was driving to the boyfriend’s house, I started to get heart palpitations because the narration and the book got so intense. This audiobook is the perfect meld of narrator and words and I completely recommend listening to this one if you get the chance.

Sum It Up With A GIF:

Lady Mary and I have the same feels about this book.


Jennifer Donnelly's These Shallow Graves opens up with main character Josephine Montfort exhuming a grave. Then we rewind back in time.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I love Donnelly too. Revolution is one of my favorite books EVER. But I didn’t like the mermaid books either. Hmmmm….. I’m looking forward to this one. It’s next on my list! Great review!
    Annette recently posted..Audio Book Review: Peter and the Starcatchers, by Dave Barry and Ridley PearsonMy Profile

  2. The only other books of hers that I’ve read are the mermaid books, but I have heard very good things about her other YA.
    Kate @ Ex Libris recently posted..Queen Of Shadows By Sarah J. MaasMy Profile

  3. I LOVED Revolution and I vow to read more of Donnelly’s books in the future. Your review makes me shopping fingers buzz, April… Amazon is only a short click away(but I am currently on book buying rehab, in my mind at least 😉 ).
    Mari – Escape In A Book recently posted..Debut of the year? Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliMy Profile


  1. […] Books & Good Wine reviews These Shallow Graves, by Jennifer Donnelly, narrated by Kim […]

  2. […] nature, I am just now getting around to it. I am glad that I did space it far from my reading of These Shallow Graves which is nothing like Wallace’s book. It would have been disappointing otherwise, because of […]

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