When I first started reading The Maid, by Nita Prose (is that a real name? If so, it’s perfect for a writer or the editor she used to be!), I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. It was a wee bit hard to get into to start with, but once it hit its rhythm and I understood the idiosyncrasies and marvellous differences of the lead character, Molly Gray, the maid of the title, it came together perfectly. I also realised how clever Prose was being by almost denying the reader easy access to the story. It’s as if we’re forced to walk in Molly’s shoes and see the world through her eyes. Molly, someone who perceives things differently, confusing signals and taking people quite literally, has always relied on her grandmother to function as a kind of mediator. Only, when the book opens, her grandmother and tether to the world, has died, and all alone, Molly must forge on, sometimes being artless and other times being incredibly insightful, but often without realising either.
Grief-stricken and missing her beloved gran terribly, Molly nevertheless takes great pride and pleasure in her work as a hotel cleaner, working hard and flawlessly to provide great service for guests and her boss. But when she finds a wealthy guest dead in his suite one day, her orderly world is thrown into disarray, especially when she is viewed as a suspect.
As Molly becomes entangled with those who don’t have her best interests at heart, seeking to protect those she believes her friends, she finds herself in real trouble. But what Molly, sweet, kind and honest, hadn’t counted on are the real friends she’s made along the way – and not just at the Regency Grand where she works. Perhaps together those who care about her can clear Molly’s name and find the real killer.
This is a heart-warming story of difference, perseverance, and kindness and how easy it is for those who don’t fit within society’s definition of “normal” to be exploited, but also rise above the machinations and deceits of others. You find yourself rooting for Molly, fighting in her corner and, like her other true friends, demanding justice.
An easy, charming read that also serves as a “locked room” mystery as Molly, her friends, the police, and the reader work to uncover the murderer.
Tags: difference, exploitation, kindness, murder, Otherness, outsider, The Maid by Nita Prose
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Before I review this wonderful, heart-warming novel for Middle-School kids, Sweet Adversity, by Sheryl Gwyther, I need to declare that not only is Sheryl a very good friend of mine, but I have followed this novel’s progress from its inception a few years ago to its terrific conclusion and now reception. It has been such a labour of, not only love for Sheryl (though it is that), but passion as well. Determined to pay tribute to not just Shakespeare, but Australian history and the trials and tribulations of kids and families who fell prey to the vicissitudes of the Great War and the Depression, as well as those hardened souls who exploit hardship and suffering, Sheryl has managed to accomplish this with Sweet Adversity (pun intended there too)
The novel tells the tale of young, smart and feisty Addie McAllister who, when times become hard for her actor parents, they leave her at the Emu Swamp Children’s Home so she can be fed, educated and safe until their fortunes turn for the better. What they don’t know is that the Children’s Home is run by a greedy, soulless woman who sees in the children not so much orphans or young ones needing her care, but talents she can exploit to their full potential. Enter, Stage Left, the villainous Scrimshaw who, in league with the matron, sees in Adversity a chance to make the money they feel they deserve.
Through their avarice, a chain of events is set in motion which sees Adversity leaving Emu Swamp and encountering a series of characters who will work both for and against her. Able to inspire loyalty, Addie is also someone who gives it in spades and there’s no-one who receives it from her more than her pet Cockatiel, Macbeth, the Shakespeare-quoting bird with more character and gumption in his wing feathers than a Harbour-Bridge worker.
A relatively unknown period of Australian history provides a stark but fascinating backdrop as Addie roams the countryside and heads to Sydney, searching for what she thought she might never have again: family. But there are those with other ideas who will stop at nothing to prevent Addie achieving her heart’s desire, including threatening those she most cares about.
Evoking time and place, this is a terrific novel that once you start you’ll find hard to put down. It’s not only young people who will love this, but anyone who enjoys a tale well told, with a good dose of history, Shakespearean and other theatrics, populated with some wonderful, rich characters.
I don’t think it’s too much to say that with Sweet Adversity, Sheryl has “a hit, a very palpable hit.”
Tags: childrens' homes, cockatiels, crime, exploitation, Great Depression, NSW, orphans, poverty, runaways, Shakespeare, Sweet Adversity by Sheryl Gwyther, Sydney, theatrical agents, war
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