Review of The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
ICYMI: This young adult historical fiction story was a five-star read for me. I adored it.
“My books promised me that life wasn’t just made up of workaday tasks and prosaic things.”
Laura Amy Schlitz's book The Hired Girl is fantastic young adult historical fiction written in diary form.
It's 1911, and fourteen-year-old Joan's life is far from the romantic, sweeping novels she loses herself in. She's living a hardscrabble life on her family's Pennsylvania farm, working ceaselessly for her rough father and brothers--and dreaming of escape.
When she runs away to the big city of Baltimore, she presents herself as an eighteen-year-old named Janet, and she is delighted to be taken on as a hired girl for the refined Rosenbach family.
“In my new life I’m not going to be vulgar. Even though I’m going to be a servant I’m going to cultivate my finer feelings. I will better myself and write with truth and refinement.”
Joan is desperate for knowledge, and the Rosenbachs encourage her growth. Mr. Rosenbach explains anti-Semitism, charming young Mimi shows Joan how to pin her hair and carry herself, and David halfheartedly attempts to woo her (which leaves Joan breathless, imagining Jane Eyre-worthy drama and desperate for an upheaval of her life worthy of that book).
Meanwhile Joan is exploring her Catholic faith and questioning and recognizing the existence of God. She's growing up and growing into a calm assurance, finding her place in the world.
Schlitz's novel, inspired by her grandmother's journal, explores art, faith, challenge, transformation, imagination, romance, growth, and wonderful humor.
Joan is a funny, heartbreaking, meddlesome, irresistible main protagonist. I could have read about her for a full series of books, and I devoured The Hired Girl in twenty-four hours--whereupon I immediately wished I'd savored it more slowly.
I loved Joan and I loved this book!
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
Laura Amy Schlitz has also written the children's book Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village as well as Splendors and Glooms, a Gothic mystery about puppeteers that was a Newbery Honor book, among others.