London, 1765. Hannah Hubert, the daughter of a gentleman, orphaned at fifteen, finds herself working in the poorhouse. The civilized and educated Hannah is soon left to the mercies of Georgian England’s societal discriminations.
Hannah is sent to work for the Chalkes who prove to be both hostile mistress and errant master. There, she learns quickly that life for a servant, especially in a merciless household, is punishing and the degradation, relentless.
Hannah goes about her duties remaining as obscure as possible to avoid beatings and attention. But she cannot help her growing curiosity over the forbidden locked room where her master conducts what is most certainly, clandestine business. As Hannah slowly discovers the reason behind the covert meetings, she undertakes the perilous pursuit of exposing the Chalkes.
Broken but kind Peg, the only other servant in the house, warns her to flee the shadowy Chalkes’ household without delay. Hannah thinking to improve her future prospects is hesitant, however, it becomes increasingly clear to her that she must not stay. Can she turn to Jack, the charming apprentice and pleasing diversion for help? Or, is the gentleman farmer Thomas, delivering fresh milk and befriending Hannah with his kindness and tender manners, the only person whom she can truly trust?
When a ruinous incident not only changes Hannah’s situation but forever shapes the woman she is to become, Hannah is faced with dire life choices.
In The Servant, the author delivers an outstanding narrative of servitude life in late eighteenth-century England. Brilliantly written with a storyline you cannot bear to tear your eyes from, this well-researched novel not only brings to life Hannah’s plight, integrity, strength, and sheer will to live despite her trials—it’s also an abiding confirmation that kindness, respect, trust, and love surpass all societal structures and perceptions.
The heart-rending plight of innumerable abandoned children forced to work in the poorhouse with a select few making it to a decent household, while others taken in were nothing short of captive labourers, was commonplace. Considered property and treated as less than human, a frequent consequence of aristocratic arrogance: a blameless or naïve young woman, pregnant, cast out, devalued to a starving street-beggar with no choice but to give her baby up. What a blessing The London Foundling Hospital was for its vocation of taking in abandoned babies, therefore saving two lives: providing for the relinquished child and allowing the mother a chance to prevail.
The Servant is a riveting, compelling read. I was immediately captivated, reading it in one sitting.
This reviewer is now a Maggie Richell-Davies forever follower.
A special thank you to Lu of @LuReviewsBooks for the recommendation.
Opinions expressed in my reviews are my own.