A strong and willing
by Dorothy Edwards
These stories of a
young servant's experiences in the late 1880s and early
1890s are set in Teddington and Richmond, along the
Thames on the western fringes of London.
As the eldest of a fair-sized family ('always a baby to
come and one to be washed for') she went to school only
'off and on' and soon became her mother's mainstay.
She couldn't abide dirt, couldn't our mam, so what
she couldn't reach or stoop to, she gave over to me.
She'd tell me the right way to do it, and stand over me
to see I'd learned, so that by the time I was eight I
could scrub a board floor.
ISBN 0 416 88630 2
The stories will be interesting for adults and for
children. They are vivid and often funny (though one is
moving); and they depict a wide range of social
arrangements and relationships in a very firm historical
and local context. In the admirable illustrations (of
everyday objects: flat-irons and carpet-beaters, pumps,
lamps and knife-cleaners
as well as incidents from the text) Robert
Micklewright's plain but sensitive touch is just right.
Unfortunately the jacket illustration is by someone else,
evoking crudely and quite inappropriately a popular TV
programme genre instead of the lively specifity of the
Anna Davin, reviewer.