Plot: Mary is a country girl in Victorian England who, at 15, is sent to work in the city as a servant. She struggles, with her work and with her coworkers, and she falls in love. But then she becomes pregnant and finds herself alone in a world that has no kindness for unwed mothers. She must make the difficult decision to leave her son in an orphanage.
My first thought upon starting this book was, finally, a novel about the lower classes in Victorian England. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jane Austen and the Gemma Doyle series and all those other books about Victorian high society. But it is nice to have the perspective of a girl whose idea of poverty isn’t living in a country house with only two servants. I know that Jocelyn isn’t the first or the only author to address this particular issue (Dickens is of course the most famous example) but it is still refreshing.
The books is clearly well researched and gives a nice glimpse into the lives of servants and orphans in the period.
Though the plot is interesting, that alone wouldn’t have been enough to make this book stand out. There are no surprises, events occur much as one might expect them to. It is Jocelyn’s skillful use of an interesting narrative technique that really brings the story to life. The novel is told in alternating first person narratives taking place in different time periods (Mary and her fellow maid, Elsa in the 1870s and the orphan James and his teacher Oliver in the 1880s). The chapters are very short (good for reluctant readers) and very personal, truly capturing the voice and the feelings of the narrator.
I had never read any of Jocelyn’s books before but I think I may have to dig them up. After I make a bit of a dent in my to read pile.