28 December 2012

Review: The Maid's Tale - Life Below Stairs As It Really Was | Rose Plummer with Tom Quinn

Rose Plummer was born in 1910, had a very poor upbringing and entered service as a maid at the age of fifteen.  The Maid's Tale - Life Below Stairs As It Really Was is her own story of this time as told to Tom Quinn.

Rose isn't shy about including everything, the full extent of the poverty experienced in childhood, sharing a bed with her siblings, an outdoor toilet with her neighbours and petty theft to get by.

In adulthood she doesn't hold back from telling us about her flirting with soldiers in the park (which made me giggle) and the butler spit polishing the silver which the 'family' then used to eat their dinner with.

These are personal highlights, however the majority of the book enlightens the reader about domestic service during this period; how the hierarchy of servants was structured, the delegation of tasks, what food each level of servant generally ate and the perks for each.

Rose shares her personal story of entering service, her first house, then moving on to a bigger house and how it differed in terms of work.  She also provides commentary on the impact of the second World War on domestic service and the changing opinions in society with regard to women in service and indeed her own feelings on this.

What is achingly clear is that the work of a maid was backbreaking and tough, and the expectations of the families of the time or Mistress of the House do seem to us to be harsh and cruel now.

I've always had a fascination for the 'life below stairs', but since the highly successful TV series Downton Abbey, there seems to be an abundance of books on the topic of servants, their duties and life experiences, enabling me to explore this further.  If you're a fan of the series like me, then The Maid's Tale - Life Below Stairs As It Really Was is a great book to satisfy your own desire for more information on this part of English history.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

2 comments:

Kimberlee said...

Sounds like a great read..Will have to check into it. Great review!

Kimberlee
http://girllostinabook.blogspot.com

Tracey said...

Thanks Kimberlee, Happy New Year too!