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Lady's Maid Paperback – 7 Apr 2005

26 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Re-issue edition (7 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009947848X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099478485
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 59,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"From the viewpoint of Elizabeth Wilson... lady's maid, Margaret Forster retells the love story of Robert and Elizabeth Browning...Enthralling" (Daily Telegraph)

"Compulsively readable... at each climax of the story, from the Browning's runaway romance to her own equally compromised and complicated marriage, the lady's maid speaks directly and at the last most movingly" (Guardian)

"Passion, melodrama, pathos - and a happy ending. What more can you ask for?" (Daily Mail)

"Movingly told... Wilson's pleasures, losses and disappointments in love are complicated and excellently understated, imagined as a contrast to the grand passions she has to serve" (Times Literary Supplement)

"Accomplished, beautifully written... packed with discreet domestic detail" (Financial Times)

Book Description

'Compulsively readable' - Guardian

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By LindyLouMac on 4 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
Fact and fiction are very close in this account of Wilson, Lady's Maid to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. There is an `afterword' at the end of the novel which personally I wish I had read first rather than at the end. It is worth reading as it separates the fact from fiction and helps with the appreciation of this sensitively written love story.

Wilson did not have an easy life as Lady's Maid, though at times over the years felt she was becoming closer to her mistress. The occasions however were always short lived and to quote from the novel. `Those who serve can never hope to breach the gap between themselves and those who are served'

Another enjoyable and eminently readable novel from Margaret Forster, whose work I have been reading since 1969!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bookaholic babe on 27 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
What makes a book compelling? The singer or the song?

Margaret Forster's Lady's Maid is one of those books which makes you want to get back to it as soon as you can, but at the same time gives you a feeling of swimming in cement and déjà vu!

It recounts the interacting lives of the Victorian Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her lady's maid Elizabeth Wilson. Although the women share the same first name they do not share the same sensibilities. In the 21st century they may have been great friends, but in class conscious Victorian England this was not possible. Wilson was part of an underclass who were called servants - a term which no one in this century would dare to use. Both Browning and Wilson had to adhere to the etiquette of the day, which required both employer and servant to follow a strict code of conduct. However intimate Wilson becomes (and we see her doing the most intimate things to look after Browning), she could never become what she would have liked to have been to her lady.

Browning comes across , on the one hand, as a selfish ,superior, powerful woman whose position allows her to affect the quality of Wilson's life. She is shocked when Wilson reveals she is pregnant out of wedlock and condemns her to a separate life from her child, which she has the means to prevent. Browning, on the other hand, is a woman who loves her husband and son deeply , is very sensitive to family losses and what is happening in the political arena. And,she is,of course,a great poet, but the book only has a short reference to some lines of her poetry. As readers we have to acknowledge that we only see Browning from Wilson's point of view. By use of letters written by Wilson to various people, we see Wilson's personal point of view .
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Delores on 25 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book overall, but I thought it went on a bit long. Wilson began to annoy me more and more, through her complete devotion to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, even in the face of knowing that Elizabeth was tiring of her.
I would like to have heard how Wilson fared following her return to England. How her first child came to Florence and what exactly happened with her boarding house in Scarborough. I have read so many of Margaret Forster and though I enjoyed so many aspects of this book, I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It was just too long and repetitive towards the end and began to bore me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Katie Stevens on 11 Feb. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Lady's Maid tells the story of Wilson, a girl from the northeast who becomes lady's maid to Elizabeth Barrett. At first she feels alone and awkward in her situation, but slowly she comes to love her mistress and grows in confidence. Wilson becomes increasingly important in Miss Barrett's life, facilitating her secret marriage to Robert Browning and flight to a new life in Italy. Throughout this, Wilson has her own life to contend with: her family, her suitors and her hopes for the future.

I really enjoyed this book. It struck an excellent balance between being the story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's maid, encompassing her daily life, concerns, struggles and interactions with other people in service, and the story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning as told by her maid, who is the initial draw of this book for most people, I should imagine, myself included. Margaret Forster has written a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and so, feeling reasonably safe that it was as historically accurate as I was likely to get, I thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse into the lives of two of the great Victorian poets. In fact, this book has reminded me of how much I enjoy Robert Browning. His wife, however, is not someone I've read very much (the ubiquitous 'How Do I Love Thee?' excepted) and after reading Lady's Maid I'm so cross with her that I don't feel any inclination to do so any time soon. Elizabeth Barrett in this book is utterly selfish; she is kind and affectionate towards Wilson only when she needs her or has no better occupation, and as soon as Wilson asks her a favour or goes against her wishes then she is petulant, tetchy and sometimes downright cruel.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By l832sdc@aol.com on 13 April 2001
Format: Paperback
The book captured my interest from the moment I found out it was a love story. Based on fact and some fiction, it was a moving story, full of passionate characters, from Elizabeth Barrett to Mr Browning, and to Elizabeth Wilson herself. It is an honest tale of class differences, and an unusual inspiring friendship that broke the usual trends, amongst a most heartfelt love story. If a book can make you experience a number of emotions, such as this one did, then it has suceeded in telling a good story. I was engrossed from the start and was sad to finish it. I would recommend this book to fans of the classics such as 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte, and 'Rebecca' by Daphne du Maurier. It has become one of my favourite books now and I will read it again.
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