My thanks to the author for providing a copy of her book
Young Hannah Hubert may be the granddaughter of a French merchant and the daughter of a Spitalfields silk weaver, but she has come down in the world.
Sent one spring day as maidservant to a disgraced aristocrat, she finds herself in a house full of mysteries - with a locked room and strange auctions being held behind closed doors.
As a servant, she has little power but - unknown to her employers - she can read. And it is only when she uses her education to uncover the secrets of the house, that she realises the peril she is in.
Hannah is unable to turn to the other servant, Peg, who is clearly terrified of their employers and keeps warning her to find alternative work.
But help might come from Thomas, the taciturn farmer delivering milk to the neighbourhood, or from Jack Twyford, a friendly young man apprenticed to his uncle’s bookselling business. Yet Thomas is still grieving for his late wife – and can she trust Jack, since his uncle is one of her master’s associates?
Hannah soon discovers damning evidence she cannot ignore.
She must act alone, but at what price?
What did I think about it..
Hannah Hubert’s arrival at her new place of work doesn’t bode well. The place is dreary, dirty and dark and fifteen year-old Hannah, employed as cook, housekeeper and kitchen maid, senses that something odd lurks behind the locked door of the upstairs room she is forbidden to enter. With only Peg, the other downtrodden, servant for company, Hannah is determined to make good their escape from this fearsome household especially when she discovers just what is taking place within the locked room.
The Servant feels beautifully authentic and the dingy world of the underbelly of society in 1765 is brought vividly to life. The author describes Hannah’s life in detail and as such allows a glimpse into the sordid life of servitude when women were at the mercy of unscrupulous employers. Whilst the story is rather bleak in places what shines through is Hannah’s strength of character and the author has succeeded in making her into a strong and fascinating narrator. Her voice feels very real, you easily sense her despair, and share her utter devastation when her life begins to unravel. The other characters who flip into and out of Hannah’s story are an interesting bunch, I especially enjoyed getting to know,Peg, Thomas and Nellie, characters who play such an important part in Hannah’s story.
I always have the impression that Georgian London was a dark and dangerous place for women and this comes across in the vivid descriptions of life for those who didn’t have money and who were so often the victims of abject poverty, used and abused, by those who had little regard for them. The author writes very well, bringing time and place alive in the fine attention to even the smallest detail. The strong emotional core of the story and Hannah’s vibrant personality holds everything together so beautifully.
The Servant is a cracking good read and a very good historical debut. I look forward to seeing what this talented author comes up with next.More of the same, I hope.
Born in Newcastle, Maggie has a first class honours degree from the Open University. She has an interest in social history, as can be seen from her debut novel The Servant, but considers herself more a storyteller than a historian. She is also a founder member of writing group ninevoices.wordpress.com
The Servant, won the Historical Writers' Association 2020 Unpublished Novel Award in spring 2020.