• The Housekeeper's Tale

  • The Women Who Really Ran the English Country House
  • By: Tessa Boase
  • Narrated by: Tessa Boase
  • Length: 11 hrs and 36 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (238 ratings)

Prime logo Prime members: New to Audible?
Get 2 free audiobooks during trial.
Pick 1 audiobook a month from our unmatched collection.
Listen all you want to thousands of included audiobooks, Originals, and podcasts.
Access exclusive sales and deals.
Premium Plus auto-renews for $14.95/mo after 30 days. Cancel anytime.
The Housekeeper's Tale  By  cover art

The Housekeeper's Tale

By: Tessa Boase
Narrated by: Tessa Boase
Try for $0.00

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Buy for $21.99

Buy for $21.99

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's summary

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 featured 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 Using secret diaries, unpublished letters, and the neglected service archives of our stately homes, Tessa Boase tells the extraordinary stories of five working women who ran some of Britain's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. 

New version - now with no music.

©2014 Tessa Boase (P)2016 Tessa Boase
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

More from the same

Author

Narrator

What listeners say about The Housekeeper's Tale

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    128
  • 4 Stars
    58
  • 3 Stars
    37
  • 2 Stars
    10
  • 1 Stars
    5
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    135
  • 4 Stars
    45
  • 3 Stars
    26
  • 2 Stars
    7
  • 1 Stars
    3
Story
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    121
  • 4 Stars
    44
  • 3 Stars
    34
  • 2 Stars
    8
  • 1 Stars
    7

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Utterly intriguing

If you could sum up The Housekeeper's Tale in three words, what would they be?

This is a meticulously researched and absorbing book, and a glimpse into the stories of the women who ran the country estates in the19th Century. My only reservation is with the production itself which employs over-wrought music to mark the introduction and chapters. Listeners of audio books prefer to have the words speak for themselves and not be assaulted by heavy-handed music which strives to set the mood or ramp up the drama. Still, I can't recommend the book itself highly enough.

Any additional comments?

AUDIO PRODUCERS: PLEASE STOP USING MUSIC IN RECORDED BOOKS!

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

40 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

the music was jarring and too loud.

the music was too jarring & too loud after the soft voice. It hurt my ears & shocked me. then I would miss the first line. I will say the author did have a great narrator's voice.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Good story - Awful music!

Good stories and narration - terrible music !!!!!! Glad I didn't live in that Era!!

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A good book for my morning walks

First, let me just say I read many comments about the music being very loud and distracting and almost passed purchasing because of this. I did not feel it was as bad as mentioned, and just turned the volume down for the dozen times it came on. I listened to the entire book with headphones, while walking dogs, so don't be deterred by the music. I would have preferred to be without it, however.
I listened to this book most mornings and it put me in a better frame of mind when I then went about my own chores in life. What work these women did, often for no thanks and little pay. I believe it is good to look back into the past to see how far we all have come. I especially liked how the author included a small piece of the ending in current-times with a Housekeeper and what her role is, how she feels about the work, how her Lady treats her, etc. Not being English I find it all very interesting.
This book could have never been written without diaries, letters, and momentos that were saved through the decades and centuries. As a journal writer I love it all. If you take nothing away from this book, remember to save the written word for our future. Digital is nice, but the old fashioned hand written word can often last longer and be more telling than emails and texts.
I appreciated the many small chapters of this book, which made great starting and stopping points for me. I would guess I walked about 30 miles while listening to this book, every step entertaining. Thank you.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

good concept for a book

I really enjoyed the historical portion of this book. the narrator was easy to listen to and the story was equally as entertaining. That being said the music in between the chapters was too loud and it was like listening to Nails on a chalkboard.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Good historical insight

What did you love best about The Housekeeper's Tale?

I loved the real-life stories of these housekeepers. Their memories are often lost to history and I appreciated the research that went into telling their stories.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Difficult choice- I liked all of them for different reasons.

What about Tessa Boase’s performance did you like?

She was easy to listen to.

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

How similar their stories are, despite spanning more than a century.

Any additional comments?

I really didn't care for the transition music between chapters and parts. To me, it took away from the story. I just want the audio of the text, delivered in a pleasant voice.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating

Riveting, informative, so well written that mundane details become exciting. I almost passed it up due to comments about the music- in total, music was about 1 minute of the entire recording, and was only for a few seconds at a time, so not a factor for me at all. The narrator was excellent and I am very happy I purchased this one.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • mz
  • 02-26-19

Rolling of saliva later in the book gets too much

For the last few hours of the book, the rolling of saliva every few sentences is just too noticeable to enjoy the book. I've turned the volume down, I've walked far away from the computer, and I can still hear it. It is gross and distracting and makes it difficult to listen to what she's saying. I got too annoyed to keep listening.

There are sounds of book page turning from time to time too. The author is actually a voiceover artist, but the production is still not as professional as the better books. I didn't have a problem with the music.

The book's content itself is fine. First 2/3 is more enjoyable. Last 1/3 has the problem above, and the stories are less interesting. The author's interjection of herself and her own role is kind of a turnoff. That should be something that's in the foreword and sticks to the foreword. It pulls you out of the 1800s into the present and have to think from the author's perspective, which is not that interesting and drags you out of the story. She keeps explicitly reminding you that some of the things are her imagination, which interrupts the story line.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Unique and deeply interesting

What was it like over the centuries to run a gigantic English house with little pay but much responsibility? This is the book that tells the story with involving, fascinating style. Highly recommended.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Historical Fiction

I couldn't finish this one. I kept listening hoping it would get better and survived little more than half. The story is long on conjecture (fiction) and way short on facts. From a scant smattering of facts and a present day walk through of country houses the author attempts to conjure up these women and unfortunately fails. The author claims to understand the difference in working standards and women's status from the early 1800's and onward but still regularly falls into the historian's fatal trap of applying today's attitudes and liberalism to bygone eras.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

2 people found this helpful