Lady's Maid Paperback – 7 Apr 2005
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"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)
'Compulsively readable' - GuardianSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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!!
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.
As Wilson appeared to develop from a mouse into a much more confident person, my attention was hooked, and I was hungry for more. But her transformation is short-lived, and as the novel progressed I became more and more frustrated with her obsession with the self-centred, passive-aggressive Mrs Browning....I do not like my heroines to be pathetic. Or at least they can be pathetic at the start, but then develop. The novel just fizzled for me.
I think the problem stems from basing a novel on real circumstances. It works fine if the real circumstances are dramatic, and if they allow for a real development of plot and character. But the circumstances surrounding the Browings and their maid just result in a kind of stagnation. There is certainly a kind of satisfaction, as a reader, in getting a feel for the bleakness of that time for people in Wilson's social position, and getting to grips with the mindset of a servant. And I think Forster's central aim with A Lady's Maid is to describe Wilson's changing, and increasingly obsessed mindset. But, as far as I'm concerned, it's not a satisfying read. Many a time I just found myself mentally rolling my eyes at Wilson's seemingly stupid choices.
I also would have liked there to be a little more "immediacy" in the story-telling, in the manner of the old writers' adage "show, don't tell". At a couple of points Wilson is "walking out" with a man, but we we barely hear about her beaux. Still, I suppose that, at least, is a matter of taste, and maybe it is more in keeping with the traditional Victorian novel for things to be related in a less direct way. And at any rate, it would have meant a longer novel.
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 .Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating study of a lady and maid relationship/ dependency. Could have been a bit shorter.Published 1 month ago by pilou
Could not put it down but had to. - reluctantly. A thick book so it lasted me a long time and it was gripping. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Valerie Thame
I loved this book. It is a work of faction but the fiction is woven in so well and at the end of the book you see has been written very close to the fact.Published 2 months ago by Legseleven
This book was gripping from the start. It was so well-written and convincing that I became truly emotionally involved with Wilson's increasingly desperate and frustrating... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
a marvellous insight into 'Lady's maids' in the mid-19th century and also brings a renewed interest in the poet Elizabeth Barrat BrowningPublished 4 months ago by sylvia john
Evocative exposition of the intense relationship between Elizabeth Barrett browning and her life from the maid 's viewpoint during a period of social change. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazonian
I enjoyed the story but it became slightly mundane after a bit.
A good insight into life for servants in Victorian times. Read more