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Austen to Zafón

Reading widely since 1972.

Currently reading

A London Family, 1870-1900: A Trilogy
Molly Hughes
The Cellist of Sarajevo
Steven Galloway
Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher
Lewis Thomas
All the Names
José Saramago, Margaret Jull Costa
A History of the World in 100 Objects
Neil MacGregor
Down the Garden Path
Beverley Nichols
Virtue Betray'd, Or, Anna Bullen
John Banks
Year of Wonders
Geraldine Brooks
Swallows and Amazons
Arthur Ransome
Illusion in java
Gene Fowler
One Pair of Hands - Monica Dickens DICKENS A great-granddaughter of Charles, Monica Dickens was a debutante from a wealthy family in the 1930's. As a young woman, she grew bored of "going out to parties that one doesn't enjoy, with people one doesn't even like." Much to her family's surprise, she decides to "go into service," working as a cook-general for the wealthy "on the other side of the green baize door." This memoir covers her day-to-day life during the year and a half she spent going from job to job. It's quite funny, but it's also a social commentary on British life at the time, class distinctions, and the difference between working and a life of leisure. She's quite honest about the fact that, as a servant, she (and other servants) listens in on her employers' conversations, goes through their personal things, and uses up their food and drink for herself and her co-workers. She also doesn't worry too much about the quality of her work, admitting to sweeping stuff under beds, accidentally dripping soap into soup, and dropping food on the floor and serving it anyway. As she says, "what a mercy it is that mistresses don't see the back-stage details of a dinner party, they probably wouldn't eat a thing if they did." The employers are presented with the same honesty. Some are downright rude and obnoxious, some are nicer, but even the good ones can be condescending. "It's a curious game that people like to play sometimes, drawing out a maid...in order to get amusement out of the screamingly funny idea that she may have some sort of a human life of her own. Nice people like the Vaughans laugh with you, others laugh at you; but it comes to the same thing in the end...You have to humour them by saying amusing and slightly outrageous things so they can retail them to their friends, or 'dine out' on quotations from your conversation." On the whole, I was fascinated by this book and plan to try to find some of her other ones. She was prolific and took on many other interesting jobs before finally devoting her self to charitable work.