Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Hetty Feather

Go To
The first book, cover illustrated by Nick Sharratt

Hetty Feather is a book series created by British author Jacqueline Wilson, the title book being released in 2009.

Having reached critical success, Hetty Feather went on to spawn a TV series by the same name, first broadcast in 2015 and lasted for 6 series before ending in 2020.

Set in mostly in Victorian London, the series follows foundling Hetty navigate life on a gene-hunt for her biological parents, encountering some interesting experiences and people along the way and a series-long Love Triangle.

Tropes specific to each book:

    open/close all folders 

    Hetty Feather 
The first book in the series. Hetty documents in first-person the first 10 years of her life, from living in foster care to moving to the Foundling Hospital where she is trained for service.

Provides examples of:

  • Alcoholic Parent: Sissy and Lil's father turned to drink after their mother died and cannot hold down a job, forcing Sissy to hide half her wages to prevent him squandering them all on drink. He also beats them, though Hetty never witnesses this, when drunk or when Sissy doesn't earn enough for the day, despite Lil being bedridden with illness.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Hetty feels very protective over her foster brother Gideon, and vehemently defends him from bullying for preferring 'feminine' activities such as dancing at the Foundling Hospital.
  • Broken Pedestal: When Hetty reunites with Madame Adeline after running away on Jubilee day, she realises her fantasy about Adeline being her mother was a childish fancy, and that Madame Adeline is no longer the stellar young performer she once was. Hetty even comments she looks 'older' without her red wig and makeup.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Hetty and Gideon, especially throughout the first part of the book, despite not being biological siblings.
  • The Bully: Shelia.
  • Children Are Innocent: At one point Hetty comes across some girls in the shadier alleys of London, wearing make-up and provocative clothing, "seeming to be begging." Hetty fails to realise that they are most likely prostitutes, though she notes that she finds them more menacing than the rough boys who stole her boots. She's also naively shocked at the destitution Sissy and Lil live in, having never experienced true poverty while sheltered in the Foundling Hospital.
  • Imagine Spot: Called 'picturing,' this is Hetty's favourite pastime. She occasionally gets carried away, being prone to flights of fancy.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Lil, with what is implied to be tuberculosis. Miss Smith dedicates a book in her memory.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Hetty's real mother is Ida.
  • Old Flame Fizzle: Hetty loses the connection she had with her old foster siblings, Gideon and Martha, and by the age of ten considers Polly dearer than any of her sisters.
  • Promotion to Parent: Fourteen-year-old Sissy's father turned to drink when their mother died and her sister Lil is sick, leaving her the breadwinner of the family. This being the Victorian era, this isn't particularly unusual.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Mr and Mrs McCartney adopt Polly to take the place of their dead daughter and even rename her Lucy.
  • The Runaway: Hetty runs away on Jubilee Day in Hyde Park on a quest to find whom she believes to be her mother, Madame Adeline. However, she ends up spending days wondering around the seedy parts of London, until found by children's author Mrs Smith who recognises Hetty foundling uniform.
  • Sick Episode: Chapter 13 which covers an influenza outbreak and the death of Saul.
  • Silly Prayer: Hetty is asked to say grace, but she's never heard of it, so she literally says the word "grace".
  • Stern Teacher: Miss Newman, who is strict but fair, in contrast to...
  • Sadist Teacher: Miss Morley, who dislikes Hetty answering questions in class. When Polly innocently corrects her for making a mistake in arithmetic she shocks the class by striking her hand with a ruler for impertinence, something which none of the girls have experience before.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Hetty is 'small and fiery' while her best friend Polly Renfrew is 'fair and neat and placid.'
  • Traumatic Haircut: Hetty has all of her hair cut off to a short stubble as opposed to long plaits she once had on arrival at the Foundling Hospital, as per their policy to prevent lice.

    Sapphire Battersea 
Hetty leaves the Foundling hospital at 14 to become a Scullery Maid for an author, Mr Buchanan, and builds a relationship with her newfound mother.

Provides examples of:

  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In Sapphire Battersea, Hetty believes she can easily quit service and make enough money for a house for her and her mother, but scullery maids made barely enough to survive. When she quits service, she realises you have to make money to survive...made especially painful when her mother dies of consumption.
  • Children Are Innocent: Though now fourteen, Ida has to explain to Hetty that she would be turned out without wages if her employer found out she has a child out of wedlock. Hetty also compares her own situation to that of Charlotte and Maisie, two girls she meets on the third-class train, recognising the huge emotional divide between them after her mother dies.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to Hetty Feather, the world of Sapphire Battersea is much more adult-based as Hetty is fourteen now and no longer considered a child in Victorian Britain.
  • Fish out of Water: The main premise of Sapphire Battersea-we watch Hetty, now a Scullery Maid, experience the alien outside world, especially when she learns the concept of paying money in exchange for goods and services the first time she is sent to buy food.
  • Gentle Giant: Freda. She's the kindest, sweetest and also the tallest lady Hetty knows.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Ida. As in the case with Lil, she dies.
  • It's All About Me: Miss Roberts, Ida's employer, whose only concern is for her own health when she learns Ida is terminally ill and wails about the inconvenience of having to find another servant. She refuses even to see Ida for fear of catching her illness. Never mind that Ida takes the trouble to go round to the neighbours and ask them if they would loan a servant to help Miss Roberts in her absence.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mrs Briskett and Sarah. As Hetty gets to know them better, they become a little kinder and when Hetty is dismissed she calls them 'dear friends.' She even notes that she's not sure how to react to them because she's used to people who love or hate her, and although they're always ticking her off, they are genuinely fond of her, too.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Madame Berenice and her powers as a medium. She can't provide actual materializations and uses her sister Emily to pretend when Hetty requests it, but she also claimed to find Saul, Hetty's brother who died of flu, wanting to speak to her when Hetty never mentioned him.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Hetty's first outing with Bertie was a boat ride at the local pond, and also acted as Hetty's first real taste of freedom since the Foundling Hospital.
  • Spooky Séance: Hetty and her fellow maid Sarah attend a Seance in Sapphire Battersea. Considering the series is mostly set in Victorian London, these types of visits were frowned upon and a cause for suspicion, which was likely why Mrs Briskett attempted to forbid Hetty from attending.
  • Time Skip: This book take splace roughly three years after Hetty Feather.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Hetty has no mother and nowhere to go but her spirit is not yet broken as she vows to find her father.
  • Redhead In Green: Hetty on the cover, which depicts her first Sunday formal dress she made out velvet. The dress eventually becomes the mermaid tale for her job as a showgirl.
  • Villain of the Week: Mr Buchanan, an elderly author and Hetty's employer whom she is eager to impress. In exchange for stamps to write to her mother, Hetty transcribes his work. Hetty ends up showing him her memoirs, of which he steals the plot for his own novel, culminating in a fight that unsurprisingly gets Hetty fired.

    Emerald Star 
Hetty heads North to find her father, and returns back to her childhood home and is faced with a difficult choice-her home with Jem or the Circus?

Provides examples of:

  • Betty and Veronica: Janet and Hetty, of which Jem has to choose as Archie. Hetty is technically the 'winner' of Jem's choice, but as she doesn't reciprocate his feelings, this ends up falling into All Love Is Unrequited territory.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: After her mother's death, Hetty sets to find her father. Even when Hetty finds her him she thinks he's single and childless, ready for a family. She however finds he's happily married with two children and a wife who aren't happy.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: What happened to Jem's eldest brother, Marcus? He's seemingly never mentioned again and is not present at his own father's funeral.
  • The City vs. the Country: The premise of the latter half of the book. Hetty struggles badly with the monotony of village life and the gossip that carries regarding her relationship with Jem, and eventually seeks new adventure at the Circus.
  • Eye Scream: Gideon attempts to blind himself during his service in the army after killing an escaped prisoner, and is discharged as a result.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Jem accepts that Hetty is too wilful to settle down, and lets her go to the circus (reluctantly.)
  • Of Corset Hurts: Hetty wears a tight corset for Christmas Dinner, inhibiting her breathing and acts as a plot device to reading Janet's private diary.
  • Small Town Boredom: What Hetty experiences after returning to the village in the latter half of the book. It also functions as a way to peel back Hetty's idealised version of her home village and her fixation on becoming a mini-housewife, thus fuelling her dreams of the Circus.

  • Wicked Stepmother: Katherine to Hetty, who also functions as Villain of the Week. Katherine is Hetty's stepmother and she is antagonistic towards Hetty; mostly because she is upset that her husband had a child out of wedlock and didn't tell her. Also, it is in response to how Hetty behaves towards her.

We are introduced to titular character Diamond, a new friend and fellow Circus-Act of Hetty's, with whom she adjusts to Circus life.

Provides examples of:

    Little Stars 
Hetty, now a young adult, becomes a Music Hall Artiste with Diamond, navigating the ups and downs of show business and reconciling her feelings for Bertie and Jem.

Provides examples of:

  • Attempted Rape: In 'Little Stars', the significantly older Samson attempts to rape the underage drunk Hetty. Fortunately, he's foiled, though it costs her her job as a result.
  • Bitter Wedding Speech: Hetty is asked to speak at Jem's wedding, and says goodbye, rather bittersweetly.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In Little Stars, Hetty once again discovers that she idealised the world of the music hall and that it isn't true or what she imagined. Instead, she views it as a Crapsack World of corruption and greed.
  • Cassandra Truth: Bertie warns Hetty about Samson in Little Stars and not getting too near him, which sadly leads to her losing her job through no fault of her own.
  • Darker and Edgier: Certainly deals with more morose topics than the previous books, such as sexual assault.
  • Held Gaze: Hetty and Jem at his wedding reception, which doubles as a mutual acknowledgement of the end of their series-long romantic relationship.
  • Last Kiss: Jem and Hetty rightbefore his wedding, which only added subsequent confusion to Hetty's feelings about Jem.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Jem and Hetty for the whole series. Although Jem does end up marrying Janet and Hetty ends up with Bertie, there are many instances which explain otherwise some sort of unresolved connection between them, such as Jem's Anguished Declaration of Love right before his wedding to Hetty's hysterical reaction to his engagement and crying all the home from it.
  • The Wicked Stage: Hetty's landlady Miss Gibson disapproves of her Music Hall and Acting career.
  • Willful Blindness: Mrs Ruby in Little Stars pretends Samson is an angel who can do no wrong (although its implied she knows what he's really like.)

General tropes that apply to the whole series:

  • Breakout Character: Hetty Feather was hugely successful, and the author Jacqueline Wilson says Hetty is probably her favourite character.
  • Fiery Redhead: Hetty's flame red hair mirrors her flame red temper. It gets her into trouble more than once.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: The entire series is written from child and teenaged Hetty's perspective, naturally unintentionally or even intentionally skewing facts at times. Hetty even rewrites some of her memoirs in 'Emerald Star'.
  • Recycled Premise: Takes heavy inspiration from Anne of Green Gables. Both stories describe a red-headed hot-blooded orphan heroine with emotional baggage who longs for adventure. She also wants to succeed academically, and even has brooding brunette male love interest(s) with whom said heroine has Belligerent Sexual Tension.