is a brilliantly spirited first novel
set in Victorian Scotland that parodies the sensationalist fiction of the
Victorian era (think
Wilkie Collins with a dry and dark sense of humor). Bessy Buckley is
on the road desperate to find a new position following the death of her former
employer and before her dubious past catches up with her. A chance
encounter with a woman and an escaped pig lands her with a job at run down
Castle Haivers (on the outskirts of Edinburgh) as "in and out girl" for the
Bessy has few skills as a housekeeper (her former employment having been spent
predominantly horizontal rather than vertical) but her ability to read and write
is what is of interest to Arabella, who is secretly writing a book detailing her
observations of the various servants who have passed through her house and,...
Beyond the Book
The Victorian Web if a Victorian household
could afford only one servant it
would likely be a 'general' maid-of-all-work (usually a girl of 13 or 14) similar to the role Bessy takes on. Next
would come a house-maid or nurse-maid, followed by a cook. Only once this
female trio was in place would the first manservant be employed, usually with
indoor and outdoor responsibilities, such as waiting and valeting and care of
the horse and carriage. To maintain a household staff at this level would have taken about £500 in 1857. If more servants could be afforded the roles of
the household would become increasingly more specialized - such as a dedicated
ladies-maid, kitchen-maid, nursemaid, butler, coachman etc.
In the list of...