Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Hired Girl

Book 7 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from January 11 - 13

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

Summary (via Goodreads)
Today Miss Chandler gave me this beautiful book. I vow that I will never forget her kindness to me, and I will use this book as she told me to—that I will write in it with truth and refinement…But who could be refined living at Steeple Farm?
Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends? Over the summer of 1911, Joan pours her heart out into her diary as she seeks a new, better life for herself—because maybe, just maybe, a hired girl cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week can become what a farm girl could only dream of—a woman with a future. 
Inspired by her grandmother’s journal, Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her sharp wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a comedic tour de force destined to become a modern classic. Joan’s journey from the muck of the chicken coop to the comforts of a society household in Baltimore (Electricity! Carpet sweepers! Sending out the laundry!) takes its reader on an exploration of feminism and housework, religion and literature, love and loyalty, cats, hats, bunions, and burns.

My Opinion
I have mixed feelings about this book.  I loved the author's writing and would definitely read her again but this particular story left me wanting.

The pages pass quickly.  Joan is an excellent narrator.  She made my heart hurt but was also funny in a slightly naughty way; I could see my girls giggling at some of the things she said.

It might be too hard for YA readers to guess the word first said on 94 and finally explained on 156. After speaking about Jews in the context of a book she was reading, "She exchanged glances with her son. "At any rate, she doesn't seem to have learned much in the way of - " Then she used a word I hadn't heard before. It began with "aunty" and ended with "ism", and from her tone of voice, I didn't know whether I was supposed to have learned it or not."  Not knowing that the word was antisemitism might take a little away from the story but not enough to make the reader lost if they didn't figure it out right away.  And I know it fits with the talk of the times but do current YA readers understand "queer" meant strange back then?  I should ask my girls.

I'm happy things are working out for her even if it's a bit fairytaleish.  It makes me nervous to read situations where everything is going well because my tendency is to wait for the other shoe to drop.  In that way it reads more like a J Fic book because there doesn't appear to be any conflict that can't be quickly resolved.  Even when bad things happen it works out to be even better.

Quotes from the Book
"I'll be stuck here my whole life long. Now I can see that's the worst of what happened with Father today. He crushed my last hope. That sounds like something someone in a novel might say, but it's true: I have no future. He won't allow me an education; I haven't any friends; I'm not even allowed to borrow books. My life stretches ahead of me, empty save for drudgery, farm work and housework, day after day, season after season."

"The truth is, most of the time, I don't think of myself as the hired girl. I think of myself as somebody disguised as the hired girl. After all, I'm not going to be a servant all my life. It's temporary. At some point I'm going to get an education and become a schoolteacher, just as Ma planned."

"I wish I had fine clothes and a slender waist and never lost my dignity. I wish a had some dignity to lose."

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