Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Mysterious Howling

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Mysterious Howling

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book I

by Maryrose Wood

The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood X
The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2010, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2011, 288 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

Print Review

Nurses, nannies, governesses, tutors, and companions: a taxonomy
The childcare arrangements of the nineteenth-century British upper crust have spawned a dynasty of classic literary characters. Can you tell your nursemaids from your nannies, your tutors from your governesses?

Nurse was in charge of the nursery regime - the diapers, the baths, and, especially in the case of the wet nurse, the nourishment. Polly Toodle of Dickens's Dombey and Son is a classic wet nurse, standing in place of a mother and passing on a bit of lower-class affection along with her milk. Nursemaids were nurse's underlings and probably got the nastiest jobs.

The word "nanny" is a close synonym of "nurse", and may derive from a babytalk diminutive. Nannies are the snuggly presences in nursery lore, the workhorses of childcare who take children on outings, supervise their play, keep their pinafores tidy, and refine their table manners. They are elevated servants - even Mary Poppins, the most celebrated literary nanny, is decidedly lower-class, however lofty her talents. When children became old enough to change out of short pants and dresses into more adult attire, it was time for a governess. The nanny sometimes stayed on as a member of the household, as does Sebastian's Nanny Hawkins in Brideshead Revisited, long after the children had grown.

A governess was a more genteel babysitter, more educated and more elite. Governesses could be down-on-their-luck gentlewomen or the daughters of clergymen, and their duties included both education and discipline. A governess is ripe for use as literary material because of her place between worlds, not quite a servant but not quite socially desirable. Jane Eyre is the most famous governess in literature, and her story exemplifies all the juicy potential latent in the governess's situation. She is intimate with the family but not part of it (hello, Mr. Rochester), she is independent but not her own master (no other listings in the want ads for female orphan high-school graduates), she is intelligent but has no ready outlet for her worth. A governess can be an excellent stand-in for a missing mother (Jane Austen's Emma has her beloved Miss Taylor), a source of misery, a target for practical jokes (Anne Bronte's Agnes Grey), or a psychological loose cog (the gothic governess in Henry James's Turn of the Screw).

What about those other domestic hangers-on, the tutor and the companion? Tutors were for boys, primarily, although girls in liberal families could receive the benefit of specialized tutors too. (This opens up another fertile relationship - think Abelard and Heloise.) Companions were more genteel and less practical, a rung down the social ladder from "chaperones" (See E.M. Forester, Room With a View). A companion could be called into service when a girl became too old and willful for her governess, a companion's duties could involve making interesting conversation, preventing hanky-panky and gossip, or generally keeping out of the way so the young woman could do what she wanted while remaining "respectable." A companion might also be employed by an older single woman (whether unmarried woman or widowed), or by a married woman traveling without an accompanying male.

This article was originally published in April 2010, and has been updated for the January 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Only Child
    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin
    Rhiannon Navin's debut novel, Only Child received an overall score of 4.8 out of 5 from BookBrowse ...
  • Book Jacket: Brass
    Brass
    by Xhenet Aliu
    In 1996, Waterbury, Connecticut is a town of abandoned brass mills. Eighteen-year-old Elsie ...
  • Book Jacket: Timekeepers
    Timekeepers
    by Simon Garfield
    If you can spare three minutes and 57 seconds, you can hear the driving, horse-gallop beat of Sade&#...
  • Book Jacket: How to Stop Time
    How to Stop Time
    by Matt Haig
    Tom Hazard, the protagonist of How to Stop Time, is afflicted with a condition of semi-immortality ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The French Girl
    by Lexie Elliott

    An exhilarating debut psychological suspense novel for fans of Fiona Barton and Ruth Ware.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin

    A dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Beartown

Now in Paperback!

From the author of a A Man Called Ove, a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T I M A Slip B C A L

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.