Friday, October 9, 2015

Book Review: The Hired Girl

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz
Candlewick Press, 2015
Source: e-galley from Netgalley
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Set in 1911, Joan's father has taken the fourteen year old girl out of school and burned her books so that she will work harder on the farm for him.  Joan has other ideas, though, and runs away to become a hired girl in Baltimore.  She's pretty clueless about the world, but has good intentions, despite her many mistakes as a parlor maid in the Rosenbach's house.  Told in the form of a diary, Joan chronicles her struggles to better herself in a world she is just beginning to understand.

Joan's story is heartbreaking during the first section as you see the way her father treats her and how much she loves and adores her teacher because of the attention she bestows on her.  It's probably the only positive attention she has received since her mother died and her father passed all the work on to her.  Even after he pulls her out of school, Joan tries to stay positive and figure out a way to make herself better and to find time to read her books.  When it becomes obvious that her father will never allow her to grow and learn, she realizes that she must leave and runs away.

At this point, the story picks up a bit, but it also becomes apparent how very naive Joan is.  Working for a Jewish family in the big city, Joan is exposed to new ideas and customs.  I love how open-minded she is, despite the fact that the priest of her local church attempts to get her to leave the family with whom she is working.  Unfortunately, Joan's naivety becomes more and more annoying and it almost seems as if she fails to grow up sometimes.

Overall, the story moved a bit slowly for me.  Sometimes, the fact that it was written as a diary tended to make it seem slower because I was learning all this after the fact.  I prefer stories in which events are happening, rather than a recap of them.  The end does pick up as it seems that Joan starts making one bad decision after another and you want to make sure that she's okay.  The problem is that those bad decisions are very aggravating for the reader because Joan is so naive and everyone around her, even younger characters, are more aware than she is.

I think that if you enjoy historical fiction, you would like this look into the life a girl who just wanted to escape her father's tyrannical rule at the family farm and become a teacher.

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