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The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

25 Oct

thehiredgirlThe Hired Girl

In 1911 Pennsylvania, farm girl Joan Skraggs wants a life like those in her beloved books, one with romance and beauty and adventure. But Joan’s father hates her books and the ideas they and her mother put into her head. When her father refuses to give her some recognition for her hard work at the farm taking care of him and her three brothers and then he burns her beloved books when she asks for money to improve their situation, Joan decides to run away and become a hired girl in Philadelphia. She reinvents herself as Janet Lovelace working for a charitable Jewish merchant family, the Rosenbachs, with a persnickety old cook, Malka, who needs help. The Rosenbachs become a sort of family to Joan, with the father who highly values education, the kind eldest son who wants to study the Talmud, the younger son who wants to be an artist, and their young daughter who hates learning. Joan catalogs her journey in her diary, resolving to be as refined and elegant as the novels she loves, and in her experiences, Joan can truly transform into a bright heroine like the ones she’s daydreamed about.

I really liked this book. It definitely has that turn of phrase and tone that evokes similar thought-provoking award winners and the appeal is probably less broad as a result of both the more literary writing and the subject matter. However, this could be for younger audiences who are voracious or more serious readers as they will appreciate Joan’s ability to dream and her same love of literature. Joan herself is inspiring for having the courage and perseverance necessary to achieve a new future, one in which she might have a chance at happiness and independence. I love that theme of feminism! I also really liked the other characters and their development, particularly how their interactions with Joan teach her different ideas and how Joan learns to think for herself rather than simply listen to what she’s told. Joan is funny in her naivety, strength of will, and her straightforwardly honest demeanor that occasionally causes a few mishaps with her new employers. This book is perfect if you’re looking for something thought-provoking and yet quietly inspiring, especially for its love of learning and education.

Note: This title will be more appealing to older readers as it follows the slower maturation of classic literature than your typical fast-paced YA. It would be a very interesting research essay to compare and contrast this book and heroine with one of Joan’s favorites like Jane Eyre and how both evolve…

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Posted by on October 25, 2016 in Historical fiction, Young Adult/Teen

 

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