Working as a housekeeper was one of the most prestigious jobs a 19th and early 20th century woman could want - and also one of the toughest. A far cry from the Downton Abbey fiction, the real life Mrs. Hughes was up against capricious mistresses, low pay, no job security, and grueling physical labor. Until now, her story has never been told.
The Housekeeper's Tale reveals the personal sacrifices, bitter disputes and driving ambition that shaped these women's careers. Using secret diaries, unpublished letters, and the neglected service archives of our stately homes, Tessa Boase tells the extraordinary stories of five working women who ran some of Britain's most prominent households.
Dorothy Doar was Regency housekeeper for the obscenely wealthy first Duke and Duchess of Sutherland at Trentham Hall, Staffordshire. Sarah Wells, a deaf and elderly Victorian (mother to H.G. Wells), was in charge of Uppark, West Sussex. Ellen Penketh was Edwardian cook-housekeeper at the impecunious Erddig Hall in the Welsh borders. Hannah Mackenzie ran Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, Britain's first country-house war hospital. Grace Higgens was cook-housekeeper to the Bloomsbury set at Charleston farmhouse in East Sussex for half a century.
Revelatory, gripping and unexpectedly poignant, The Housekeeper's Tale champions the invisible women behind the English country house.
©2014 Tessa Boase (P)2016 Tessa Boase
"Too many stars? Not really."
Yes, I would because it is not only well researched but absorbing and moving.
Sarah Wells. Her plight late in life and the scrutiny of her famous son made this fascinating.
Don't know of any.
There were too many to mention.
The voice is beautiful and modulated and appropriate to the content, though you can occasionally hear indignation bubbling under the surface.
"Gripping stories, compulsive listening"
Very good, almost like a radio drama to listen to, so many different 'voices' conjured up. Atmospheric music too. Fascinating subject.
Reminded me a bit of Mrs Woolf and the Servants by Alison Light - a quest to find forgotten and invisible voices.
Drama, humour, characterisation.
Too long in one sitting - but it's divided into six separate tales of different women, so easily divided up.
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