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The Book of the Maidservant

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  439 ratings  ·  142 reviews
“A funny and wise book about friendship, loyalty, and love.”—Karen Cushman

Johanna is a servant girl to Dame Margery Kempe, a renowned medieval holy woman. Dame Margery feels the suffering the Virgin Mary felt for her son but cares little for the misery she sees every day. When she announces that Johanna will accompany her on a pilgrimage to Rome, the suffering truly begins
Hardcover, 236 pages
Published October 27th 2009 by Random House (first published January 1st 2009)
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The Rusty Key
Reviewed by Rusty Key Writer: Jordan B. Nielsen

Recommended for: A boy or girl, aged ten and up, who you’d really like to punish.

One Word Summary: Dry.

Is there a child in your life who loves unspecific Medieval history, Christian epics, and finds the woes of the serving class fascinating? What child doesn’t long for the hardscrabble romance of the fifteenth century, with its desperate and poignant struggles, all the washing of clothes in streams, the abused and battered women, the contents of ch
This book was lovely, and became even more so when I read the author's note at the end. It's based on The Book of Margery Kempe, the first autobiography in English, which details Kempe's religious pilgrimages. When she read that book, Rebecca Barnhouse paid attention to how Kempe described her maidservant and thought it sounded a little fishy. This is the part I love—that Barnhouse was able to see through Kempe's own words and imagine what Kempe was like from the maid's perspective. Johanna is a ...more
Sep 11, 2012 Kristen rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: medievalists, people who like strong female characters, history buffs
This was a really fun little book. Even though I wrote about Margery Kempe and she was one of the more colorful medieval holy women (I actually think she had post partum depression and ran with the visionary thing instead as an excuse to kick her husband out of bed and not have any more babies, but that's just me) I always thought she would be a real shit to have to be around very much. It was nice to see not only a historical fiction about her, but one told from the POV of her maidservant. I wo ...more
I listed to this young adult (YA) novel on my Ipod, and I continue to be amazed at how much YA fiction impresses me. In some ways, good YA fiction seems more poignant than many “adult” novels I have read lately. Perhaps it’s how children and teenagers see the world so differently than adults, and thus it brings the world into sharper focus, tragedies and joys alike.

One of the fascinating things about this novel is that it is based on a true historical figure, Dame Margery Kempe’s maidservant. D
Abby Welker
This book, based on a true story, was a quick, clean, entertaining read and I really enjoyed it. I found myself getting choked up many times with sadness for Johanna, the maidservant, for what she most likely endured and for the cruel environment she was in. The author paints a picture of what it would most likely be like for a young servant girl during the 1500's and cruel doesn't come close to describe how horrible it would have been for young girls and boys sold into servitude.

Something I enj
Eh. I read it to help out our middle school librarian so I could recommend/not recommend.

Too dry, the kids won't like it. Good story, about a servant who has to follow her mistress on a pilgrimage to Rome, but it didn't hold my interest.

Want a book about a kid who travels through medieval Europe? Pick up
Crispin  The Cross of Lead (Crispin, #1) by Avi instead. Female heroine? The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman. Or even Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman.

Much better reads.
Alissa Tsaparikos
Based on The Book of Margrey Kemp,the first autobiographical English text written in the 15th century, Barnhouse takes what was once just the story of a very high and mighty pilgrim and turns it into the story of her maidservant that is often mentioned throughout the journey. Barnhouse gives Johanna life, taking historical fact and filling in the blanks.

I have to say I quite liked this little book. It was interesting, and though it was a novel, it still had quite a bit of reality to the descript
Miss Amanda
gr 7-10 224 pgs

1413, Lynn, England to Rome, Italy. 12 year old Johanna's life as maidservant to Dame Magery is nothing but hard work all day. She misses living with her father and older sister. When Dame Margery announces that she is going on a pilgrimage, Johanna's life goes from bad to worse. The other pilgrims don't like Dame Margery's religious fits and bossiness. Johanna worries she and Dame Margery will be left behind. Alone in a strange country, how will Johanna ever find her way home?

Rebecca Barnhouse's novel about Margery Kempe's young servant is an entertaining and thoughtful examination of life in the Middle Ages. It's also a fun read, chronicling the adventures of teenaged Johanna as she reluctantly embarks on a pilgrimage with her difficult mistress.

Barnhouse doesn't sugar-coat her time period, but also doesn't traumatize the reader with the horrors of daily life in any time other than this one, as some writers do. Despite the trials and injustices she faces, Johanna is
Dame Margery Kempe was the first big female travel writer, and what she mostly wrote about was how God talked to her all the time, and how nobody treated her with proper respect.

Back in the 1400s, Margery wrote her own story (well, dictated it to a man who wrote the book) and one of the big complaints she had was that her maidservant was a big old disappointment. She was along to carry, cook, clean, and launder...and Margery had complaints about how she did all of it.

Now Rebecca Barnhouse has w
Addison Children
Along the lines of The Midwife's Apprentice, this novel takes a look at the life a young maidservant at the beginning of the 15th century. Johanna is forced into servitude following her father's disappearance and her sister's marriage. It is clearly difficult though not always unpleasant. Then her mistress decides to make a pilgrimage to Rome. This involves brief boat rides and months of walking, including crossing the Alps as winter is closing in. Based on the first autobiography written in Eng ...more
Johanna is a maidservant to Dame Margery Kemp, a 13th century holy woman. It's a bit of a trial for Johanna to look after Dame Margery who continuously weeps for Christ's sufferings, but Cook and little Cicely (the other maid) make Johanna's position a bit easier with their friendship. Johanna still longs to return home to her father and older sister though, and enjoy the comforts of being a prosperous farmer's daughter. However, her father is in debt and her sister is now married, so Johanna h ...more
Johanna is the maidservant for Dame Margery. Dame Margery is considered a holy woman. She speaks to God which causes her to weep constantly. Dame Margery decides to go on pilgrimage to Rome and takes Johanna with her. Johanna has no choice in the matter and is expected to not only take care of Dame Margery, but of the whole group. She has to cook (even though she doesn't know how), clean their clothes, sew and fetch water and wood. She is not treated well by most of the company, especially grump ...more
First line: "My mistress says you shouldn't stare into the fire lest the devil look out at you from the flames."

Between Connie Willis' Doomsday Book, Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders, The Mistress of the Art of Death series, and this book, I am fast developing a passion for historical fiction set in the middle ages. It is such a different time with such a different way of living that it requires quite a bit of world building similar to much fantasy. Many of these books also explore a world that
Full review originally posted on my blog, PidginPea's Book Nook.

I wasn't sure what to expect from The Book of the Maidservant, but the wonderful writing and the swiftly moving plot sucked me in from the very beginning and didn't let me go. The action builds rapidly as Johanna finds herself facing one adventure after another, meeting wonderful friends and terrible enemies along the way.

I'm not very familiar with medieval history, but Barnhouse definitely brought the time period alive. You can see
Johanna, a servant for Dame Margery Kempe, learns one day that her mistress is going on a pilgrimage to Rome and that Johanna will be accompanying her. Johanna has not been a servant for very long and is therefore not very skilled in the tasks of cooking and mending. Despite this, once on the pilgrimage, she discovers that she is expected to act as the maidservant for all the pilgrims. The pilgrimage is full of hardship and quarreling, especially when the other pilgrims turn against Dame Margery ...more
Margo Tanenbaum
This is the first but definitely not the last novel by Rebecca Barnhouse, a new talent in historical fiction for young people. A professor of English at Youngstown State University, Barnhouse specializes in medieval literature and young adult literature, and has even written two reference books about children's and young adult literature set in the Middle Ages. With these qualifications, we would expect good things from her own novel, and indeed, she delivers a terrific story for ages 10-14.

I loved this fictionalized account based on truth! Dame Margery Kempe tells about her experiences on a 15th-century pilgrimage to Rome in what some consider to be the first English autobiography, but it was the references to the Dame's serving girl that intrigued Rebecca Barnhouse. This story is Johanna's fictionalized account of her life and experiences, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I was caught up in her story right away, and loved learning about life in 15th-century England. Johanna was ...more
In the 1400s, Dame Margery Kempe left England on a pilgrimage to Rome. Her account of that and other pilgrimages as well as her conversations with God (Dame Margery was considered a Holy Woman) was published as The Book of Margert Kempe and is considered to be the first official autobiography in the English language. In Rebecca Barnhouse’s note at the end of The Book of the Maidservant she notes that Dame Margery’s account mentions the maidservant who accompanied her and who is constantly malign ...more
The medieval holy woman Margery Kempe dictated 'The Book of Margery Kempe,' which is considered the first autobiography in the English language. In it, she relates her experiences on several pilgrimages to holy sites. According to the novelist Rebecca Barnhouse, the book is also riddled with Kempe's gripes about her "ungrateful" maidservant, who is constantly disappointing her.

In this novel, Barnhouse imagines the maid's own tale. Poverty and bad luck land Johanna in the service of Dame Margery.
Mar 02, 2011 Sarah rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: grades 6-8
I picked this book up after reading Barnhouse's newer book _The Coming of the Dragon_, which I enjoyed very much. This book, however, wasn't as enjoyable for me.

This story revolves around a young girl named Johanna who is a servant to Margery Kemp, the well-known religious woman of the Medieval era. It follows them as they make the pilgrimage to Rome from London with a small group of others. Dame Margery, as Johanna calls her, is very extreme in her demonstrations of her faith as she is prone to
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Booktalk: My mistress is a very holy woman, Dame Marjori. She talks to god and often starts crying loudly in the middle of the street when she sees something that reminds her of Jesus. Now, I have to go with her on a pilgrimage from our home in England all the way to Rome. We're going to walk most of the way, and I am to be serving maid to the whole party of pilgrims. When someone wants something washed, they dump the pile of filthy clothes at my feet. And they expect ME to cook? When I've never ...more
I loved this book. It reminds me a bit of the wonderful Dear America series. Johanna is a young teen (?) in the year 1413 who is sent to be a maid to a eccentric woman named Dame Margery Kempe. Kempe hears God's voice and sobs uncontrollably when thinking of the sorrows of the Virgin Mary or the torture of Jesus, but loves to be pampered and cannot see the distress of her own servants. Dame Kempe goes on a pilgrimage to Rome and takes Johanna with her and the book is the story of the pilgrimage ...more

"The Book of the Maidservant" is a coming of age story following the life and interactions of a fiery maidservant, Johanna, who is forced to to on crusade with her severely pious mistress, Dame Margery. Margery frequently has weeping fits, and believes the Lord speaks to her. (There has been some debate about this. Her preaching and weeping are frequently the topic of squirmishes throughout the pilgrimage members. Johanna, being a servant, is disliked, bossed around and looked down
Oct 31, 2011 Ana rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: ya, fiction
I forget exactly where i first read about this, it might have been through bookslut's blog. Wherever it was, i'm so glad i decided to get it from my library. I'd been reading some heavier things, like eyewitness accounts of concentration camps, etc, so this was such a great 'light' book to get into.

Not that this wasn't without its own stress. I so felt for Johanna and all her tribulations.

I'd barely heard of Margery Kemp, whose autobiography this is loosely based on. It's mostly a spiritual book
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Oct 18, 2012 Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Snail in Danger (Sid) by: spotted in a HPB
At first it was the map on the back that drew me in — the dotted red line tracing its way from Lynn in England to Zierikzee on the other side of the Channel, across the Alps, and to Rome. Then I learned what the premise was and thought, Wow. Unless you geek out over medieval stuff or religious (specifically Christian) history stuff, you probably don't know who Margery Kempe was. She was a 14th C. Englishwoman who had religious visions, and is somewhat famous in medievalist circles for having lef ...more
Oct 20, 2010 Shannon rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shannon by: Rebecca
Shelves: youngadult
The Book of the Maidservant did what good historical fiction always does: It transported me to another time and place (15th century Europe, specifically) and encouraged me to put myself in the shoes of others (Johanna, in this case). In this book, we follow Johanna as she accompanies her mistress from Lynn, England to Rome, Italy. Along the way, we meet fellow pilgrims, see various parts of Europe through Johanna's eyes and see firsthand the life of a servant.

I liked many things about this book,
Johanna is a maidservant to Margery Kempe, a self-proclaimed holy woman from Bishop's Lynn, England, in the early fifteenth century. Serving Dame Margery is a rough life, especially when she proclaims that she will be making a pilgrimage to Rome, and that Johanna will accompany her. Their fellow pilgrims are angered and frightened by Dame Margery's constant crying and preaching, and Johanna is forced to do the washing and cooking for the entire company. When Dame Margery abandons her, Johanna mu ...more
Picked this up at the library because it looked intriguing. A peek into a Medieval point of view from a girl who is treated ill by her "Mistress", meaning her boss.
The lady/boss is a supposed to be a holy woman but comes off as "holier than thou". Although in that day, it was probably one of the few ways a woman could get power (she has attacks of crying and prayers she claims are feelings of the Virgin Mary)
The lady and the girl go on a grueling pilgrimage with a crude man who is annoyed by th
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Reading was like breathing to Rebecca when she was growing up. It still is. She loved the Little House books, and fought with her brother over books in the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series. Later, she discovered science fiction and fantasy, from The Lord of the Rings to Arthur C. Clarke to Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea series, and many, many other books she and her best friend sha ...more
More about Rebecca Barnhouse...
The Coming of the Dragon Peaceweaver The Book of the Knight of the Tower: Manners for Young Medieval Women Recasting the Past: The Middle Ages in Young Adult Literature Ring-Giver

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