The publisher’s write-up sounded fabulous and so I attempted to read this book several times. But found that whilst the beginning was engaging, once Isabelle was committed to the asylum, I found myself getting less interested and less interested. Somehow my attention wandered… I never managed to complete the book.
And again Erica writes a good historical romance with a modern twist – or at least a feminist twist.
Here we have a nicely brought up young woman not only starting her own school for destitute and desperate young girls but also finding a way to support the school through somewhat illegal means – although she would point out that no-one was actually physically harmed, and anyway, those she took from could well have afforded to donate instead, but didn’t. So almost deserved it….
And we have the start of the Peelers to add to the mix. Which again will intrigue people who like their history and crime fiction…
Judith Kinghorn is the author of four novels: The Echo of Twilight, The Snow Globe, The Memory of Lost Senses and The Last Summer. She was born in Northumberland, educated in the Lake District, and is a graduate in English and History of Art. She lives in Hampshire, England, with her husband and two children.
Erica Ridley always writes a fluent Regency style novel. Historically correct with speech adjusted to modern understanding.
Here we have 2 very sad specimens adrift in a society where women are wives, servants, or harlots, and society men do not toil for a living.
So an illegitimate daughter of a courtesan cannot be respectably employed, and a man without an income has no recourse but gambling to fund his life and to support his family.
A story based in speculation about facts – what caused Descartes to have a friendship with Helena, a maid? And how did Helena manage to learn to read and write when it was extremely uncommon amongst women of the Quality, let alone a maid?
Well, the author has made some suggestions within this book that link the facts in a way that makes total sense – with perhaps a little embroidery here and there, just to flesh out the known characters and known occurrences.
This is a sensitive tale of a young girl, Helena, who is forced by family circumstances to become a maid in the household of a bookseller in 1635.
Helena narrates this story as it happens to her and she tells us of the way in which she manages the household and her work, and how she learnt the rudiments of reading and writing (on her hand for lack of knowledge or access to, paper, quills, and ink) from her brother who was schooled by tutors.
The bookseller, Mr Sergeant, ekes out his living by renting the attic rooms of his house to like minded gentlemen and thus Descartes comes to stay. And Helena encounters him and his servant, and learns to write properly. All this at a time when paper was extremely expensive and not for the ‘common sort’ to have access to.
Helena and her maid friend, who she teaches to read and write, wonder what life would be like if all women could read and write. Perhaps they could then manage their own businesses and not be dependent on men for their livelihood and income? A world that they do not get to see. As they live in a world where books are still extremely expensive and a man (never a woman) who has a library of 100 books is considered a scholar and wealthy.
Meeting Descartes changes Helena’s life forever, and not just because she learns to read and write properly.
I found this a fascinating and sensitive story and could not put it down. I wanted to know more of this strange relationship between the maid and the renowned scholar.