The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
If you, like me, can be disappointed when an otherwise good book doesn’t fulfill what you’d been led to believe it would be based on its description, let me just warn you: I do not think the book is a “comedic tour de force.” I do not think it’s anywhere close to being one.
Other than that, I would agree with the description: the author has delicious wit and a keen eye, and the book is moving. It does explore feminism (slightly) along with religion, literature, love, and loyalty. And yes, there is plenty of housework. She is a hired girl, after all.
Don’t let my “it’s not what it claims to be!” keep you from trying the book, if you’re a fan of historical fiction. Joan is an appealing character, and her story is engrossing. I enjoyed the diary format, as it helped make some of the more emotionally charged moments easier to read. Apparently I’m a literary wimp, and liked the extra distance provided by her relaying events later, rather than me reading about them as they were happening. (I realize this sounds crazy, but there you have it.)
The writing is smooth, and the only reason I didn’t finish it in one session is because of still needing to take care of things like children and dinners and other household tasks. Appropriate enough for this book.
The characterizations are wonderful, and I find myself wondering what happened to them all after the story ends. I liked so many of them, and kind of miss them now. I also enjoyed the peek into life in a Jewish household.
Recommended if you enjoy historical fiction. It is classified as a young adult or middle grade book, but I found it quite enjoyable as an adult. I’d hesitate to hand it over to a younger, precocious reader – there is the emotional abuse Joan takes early in the book, and later in the book are descriptions of kissing and some more (see below) if those are issues for your readers.
Spoiler alerts if you’re still debating on its appropriateness for your reader. Highlight the area below to see, but it does give away the ending:
Joan spends a large portion of the book lying about her identity (quite understandably), although it does all end up resolving in the end, when her real name and age are discovered. Towards the end of the book she also offers to become the mistress of the man she believes she’s in love with, although it’s phrased in such a way it could be missed by somewhat oblivious readers. The uproar when she’s discovered and emphasis on “nothing happened” would probably let them know they’ve missed something if they didn’t already catch it. Her employers “catch” her and find out who she really is and how young she is, and the book eventually ends with her headed back to school.
So yes, I liked the book, but I would be aware of the age and maturity of potential readers before sharing it.
Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her delicious wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a moving yet comedic tour de force.
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. Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz relates 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!), taking readers on an exploration of feminism and housework; religion and literature; love and loyalty; cats, hats, and bunions.
Title: The Hired Girl
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Category: Juvenile Historical Fiction
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
Disclosure: I received this book for free from NetGalley for review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!
Previously on The Deliberate Reader
Two years ago: The Story Circle: New Session