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on 11 August 2005
Swallowcliffe Hall - House of Secrets is a delightful story providing rare insight to life "below stairs" in a grand Victorian house. Too seldom do we read a story about the life of servants; their hopes and dreams and hardships from those faraway times. Jennie Walters has researched her subject matter well - the little chapter heading inserts are absolute gems and the accompanying website - [...] - is a treasure. The author has spun a lovely tale, opening the door to a whole new world, the world of 14 year old Polly Perkins, new under-housemaid at the impressive and rather awesome Swallowcliffe Hall, family home of the aristocratic Vye's.
House of Secrets is a tale of romance and intrigue, despair and hope and, self discovery. One comes to understand the role of the servant in those times only too painfully, yet through it all, it is friendship that rises up to challenge the social values of the time.
A heart-warming and hopeful story which is definitely worth reading.
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on 25 November 2005
What can I say? This gripping novel will keep you hooked from start to finish! The very real idea she paints in your mind contains all manner of feelings from love to hate, happiness to sadness. Let me take you on a brief tour of Polly perkins (the innocent main character) year at the hall...
Polly perkins is filled with pride as she finds herself working at The grand Swallowcliffe hall as a maid. But, she soon finds that her life is not quite as simple as she predicted. 0h, the hard work was expected, but the accusations, the traumas and the hardships that developed over the short year she is ther come as much of a surprise to the small polly we se at the begining and the tougher more mature polly we see at the end of this marvel.
I would recommend this book to anyone as a moving tale that portreys perfectly 'life under stairs'.
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on 5 July 2005
I read this book after the author: Jennie Walters, came and gave a talk to my school. When I heard about it, it sounded a bit cliché, but i was wrong. It is a fantastic story with a plot which really fits together.
It is about a girl called Polly, who works at Swallowcliffe Hall. She meets lots of new friends (as well as enemies). She has one friend in particular called Iris, who gets herself into huge trouble. She is sent away from the Hall, and nobody hears about her for a long time. Eventually, Polly recieves a letter from Iris. Iris has been sent to the Workhouse. Polly visits her there, and a shocking secret awaits her...
I fantastic book I would reccommend. It really touches your heart, and it is a really original plot. READ IT!!!! You won't be sorry!
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on 31 July 2005
I Syd Wilson aged 12 thoroughly enjoyed 'House of Secrets' by Jennie Walters because:-
Firstly, the description is of the atmosphere is important for the reader so they can picture the story in their mind and feel involved in it. I feel the author did this well because i could amagine the scenes in my mind.
Secondly, there are short passages at the beginning of every chapter, these are rules for the maids. I like this because every new chapter you realise a character has done something wrong or you learn something about maid servants that era.
Thirdly, the story is gripping and thrilling with its action which makes the reader have emotions which also envolves the reader in the story and makes he/she want to read on.
The plot of this book is of a girl in her teens called Polly or Olive Perkins who has been accepted to work as a house maid at Swallowcliffe Hall. She make friends with a girl older than her called Iris who helps her through her tough first few weeks at the hall. Unfortunalty, Polly's luck at the beginning isn't too good and a secret breaks polly's heart and loses a great friend of hers. As the book goes on she battles through hard times and problems on her own, however it all shapes up towards the end.
I reccomend this book to read for all my reasons above, it is an exciting book with twists and cliffhangers although you might learn some lessons from it aswell. I couldn't wait to find out what happened in the end and nor will you be able to once your sucked into it.
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on 19 December 2005
For me, one of the most important thing about a book is that it has a good start, because if it doesnt, then I'll probably just put the book down and forget all about it. `House of Secrets` drew me in from the start,so I actually got past the first chapter of it, which is a good thing,as it's one of the best books that I've read.
I think that it was a very good idea to put extracts from other books at the start of each chapter. I've always really enjoyed reading things like that-it gives me a hint as to what that chapter's about, and they're actually quite interesting.
I read it in a day and a half, and even read it again sraight afterwards. I'm also glad that it told people about the sequel at the back of the book beccause otherwise I wouldn't have known that there was one.
All in all, I think that this is an excellent book,well worth reading, and I can't wait to read the sequel.
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on 18 September 2005
The moment I opened this book I completely enthralled by the wonderful story of Swallowcliffe Hall and Polly Perkins' adventures.
The story is set about a hundred years ago and describes the life of a servant girl working in a grand house. It is a really original idea because the author, Jennie Walters, not only writes about the lives of servants but also Lord and Lady Vye who own the manor house. Polly is thrown into a world of adventure, friends and hard work. Twisted into this tale is the tragic story of Polly's friend Iris who has an awful secret which will change her life forever.
Reading this book I could really imagine what it must have been like in those days. This realistic story was written with imagination and excitement which Jennie Walters writes amazingly and I could not put it down at all. I can't wait for the next two books to come out.
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on 23 October 2012
Jennie Walters HOUSE OF SECRETS is also published under the name POLLY'S STORY and reveals the hidden lives of the residents of Swallowcliffe Hall as seen through the eyes of a 14 year old servant girl named Polly Perkins. Similar in some respects to its adult focused predecessors like Upstairs-Downstairs, Ms. Walters has chosen to write this book for a YA audience and has selected a contemporary of that age group as her narrator. Kudos to her for not "writing down" to her teen readers and special applause for telling an authentic story of a servant in the early 1900's without romanticizing the facts. This is instead the observations of a young girl thrown into a harsh and unfamiliar environment struggling to adjust to her circumstances and deal with the demands of her job while learning her place within the household. At Swallowcliffe there is a definite pecking order, even among the servants, which decides every aspect of life such as friendships, how work is assigned and who is allowed to speak and when (no servant can ever INITIATE a conversation with any family member). Jealousy between the servants is common as are some of the bonds that are formed out of necessity. Most captivating is the story of the alliance that develops between Polly and her fellow servant Iris. It is that bond and the outcome of that friendship that serves as the engine that drives the story.

Unlike most books of this genre, this is not a story of a young girl struggling to rise above her station in life, it is instead an authentic look at the life of one girl functioning in one of the jobs available to the British laboring class in the early 20th century, a time when young men and women left home to enter the work force in their early teens in order to ensure their survival and that of their families. Reality is the key in this story and the author has done an excellent job of imparting the atmosphere and circumstances surrounding the working class of the era when hard work and discipline were deemed necessary in building the character of good servants. There are no social welfare programs to provide for basic needs, no medical care at the local emergency room, no homes for unwed mothers, no food stamps or temporary housing. This book is not only a lesson in what was but could serve also as a reality check for the YA's of today who find it difficult to deal with life because they don't have access to a cell phone, the latest computer game or I-Pod.

While not a nostalgic trip down memory lane, POLLY'S STORY is by no means depressing. This historically informative and emotionally engaging tale is an easy read that anyone, teen or adult, would find enjoyable.
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