Friday 8 September 2017

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 8th September 2017 - "The Secret Diary of Jane Pinny, a Victorian House Maid (and accidental detective)" by Philip Ardagh and Jamie Littler (Nosy Crow / National Trust)

Time to step back into history for another fantatic book of the week from Messrs Ardagh and Littler...
Philip Ardagh and Jamie Littler's fab history series for Nosy Crow / National Trust has already ended up in our Book of the Week slot with the hilarious and brilliant "The Secret Diary of John Drawbridge, A Medieval Knight in Training".

It's now two-for-two as the second book in this fascinating, funny and absorbing series spins further forward in history to the Victorian era, and a subject that's actually very close to our hearts.

Charlotte loves anything to do with the Victorian era, and so she pretty much leapt on this one as soon as it arrived. Once I'd managed to wrestle it from her and have a read through myself, it instantly reminded me of our late Nan (Charlotte's Great Nan Joan). You see, Great Nan - like Jane - went into service at a grand house out in Norfolk at the tender age of 13, just like Jane Pinny.

The story of Jane might take place a little before Nan's own story (yes, people were still going into service in similar ways right up until the late 1930s and beyond) so it was not only fascinating to read Jane's (fictional) story, but draw parallels with many of the stories Nan had told us about her own time in service.

Jane finds life at a grand mansion very daunting at first. There are so many people to meet, so many new things to learn, and a lot of hard work and long hours for a humble house maid. Jane's fictional detective / mystery story is beautifully interwoven with actual historical facts about life above and below stairs, and for Charlotte it seems almost impossible to imagine girls not that much older than her working 12-14 hours a day (even on days where they had an afternoon off) or longer, with very few of the home comforts we all enjoy today. She was absolutely hooked though, so much so that the book made her late for school! Eeks!

The class system was, of course, entirely different then - and Philip expertly weaves in tons of interesting facts about Victorian life in general, covering many of the social and economic aspects of Victorian history, discussing the British Empire and of course life as a scullery maid with a deft amount of humour, producing a truly fascinating chunk of Victorian life.

Jamie Littler is once again on illustration duties, with some wonderful illustrations appearing throughout (and of course on the cover). If anything, this is even better than "John Drawbridge" and I definitely know for a fact that Nan would have loved it just as much as we did.

"The Secret Diary of Jane Pinny, a Victorian Housemaid (and accidental detective)" by Philip Ardagh and Jamie Littler is out now, published by Nosy Crow / National Trust.