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Lady's Maid

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  1,102 ratings  ·  150 reviews
London 1844, and a shy young woman has arrived to take up a new position in the grandeur of No. 50, Wimpole Street. Subtly and compellingly, Lady's Maid gives voice to Elizabeth Wilson's untold story, her complex relationship with her mistress, Elizabeth Barrett, and her dramatic role in the most famous elopement in history.
Paperback, 544 pages
Published April 7th 2005 by Vintage (first published 1990)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,840)
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Evie Byrne
This book did a good job portraying issues of class and privilege in Victorian society. It's also paints a vivid picture of servant life in that period--and I love servant tales. BUT it is relentlessly depressing. I just want to put that out there as a warning.

The back of my book was covered with glowing blurbs, one of which said it had a happy ending. Well, maybe it does by lit fic standards. Certainly I'll admit that it ended better than say... The Road. (Yay! She kept her limbs! Happy!) But
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Lady's Maid is the fictional life story of Lily Wilson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's maid. Since all I knew about either of the Browning poets before starting this book was the little bit I remember from high school English, I wasn't sure if this was the book for me; fortunately, it really is the story of Wilson (as she is called throughout the book), and background knowledge about her employers is not essential. In fact, being famous poets, I expected to see them romanticized, but they're not; ...more
This was by far one of the best and most engrossing books I read this year. Actually I listened to it on audio. There's nothing better than a superb book with a very engaging, well-spoken narrator. This book is about Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her husband, Robert Browning. But the story itself centers around Elizabeth's maid, Wilson. I can't honestly remember when a book evoked so much emotion in me: joy, happiness, resentment, anger, outrage. The writing was so beautiful, and so true to the ...more
Very many years ago I saw the musical "Robert and Elizabeth" in London and fell in love with their characters. Wilson and Flush just appeared on the periphery. However, the musical only went as far as their leaving for Italy. If I had read this book at the time I would have been devastated to find that two poets could be so selfish. Maybe I thought poets had more insight into life and its traumas than ordinary people. But of course they treated servants just as others of that period would - inva ...more
Lady's Maid also takes historical fact and expands it into a novel. It is the story of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning as told through the eyes of Barrett's maid, Lily Wilson. Wilson as Barrett called her, was instrumental in getting Barrett's correspondence to Browning during their romance. When the famous couple eloped to Italy Wilson accompanied them. Wilson lived her life through Barrett's. She was Barrett's maid, companion, confidante, nurse and support through every crisis and succes ...more

The story begins in London in 1844 when 23-year old Elizabeth Wilson becomes lady's maid to Elizabeth Barrett. A complex and, at times, difficult relationship develops, which only ends with the death of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1861. The story follows the courtship of the Brownings, the dramatic elopement and their lives abroad, all the while with Wilson, as she is called throughout the book, attending her mistress' every need through good times and bad. Yet the Browings only provide the ba
Lady's Maid by Margaret Forster

Challenges read for: Goodreads, Historical Fiction, Audio Book

Book Cover: I love the simplicity of it.

Narrator: Carol Boyd

A fictional account of the life of Lily Wilson, Lady's Maid to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I loved and hated this book at times--Wilson would seem whiny and spineless and sometimes the Barrett-Brownings were just down-right mean. I think if it hadn't been for the excellent narration by Carol Boyd, I would have put this book on the back burner. O
A charity-shop discovery that I am truly glad to have made. It narrates the semi-fictional story of Elizabeth Browning's made, Wilson. But really, what it narrates is life. Life in its progressively increasing depth, sadness, and disillusionment. It has been a long time since a novel moved me thus, and I have found myself shedding more than a tear on the long bus journeys I undertake every day - or weeping, as Wilson would put it. Only a woman could have written something like this- and this is, ...more
Slow. Very, very slow.

When I took this book out, the premise sounded so promising--so interesting. The book crawled along, and about half way through, I asked myself why I was going to finish it, when, to be honest, I didn't like the characters, didn't appreciate their struggles.

Well, I did read it all, and it started to pick up the pace a bit after I hit the half way point. Unfortunately, it didn't continue to move along. Maybe I just don't appreciate that there were such constraints on people
5.5/6 -- Have you ever liked an actor in a movie and then seen them interviewed and wished that you had never seen the interview because your opinion of them changed (for the worse)? Well, now I am not sure I like Elizabeth Barrett Browning... her selfish, self-centered personality was immense. Altho I did find the book sort of interesting, I would have difficulty in recommending it to many people: the writing is slow, so the reader must have a definite interest in period writing and an interest ...more
Nora Littell
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Well done and thought-provoking: what would one of the great love stories, the romance of famed poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, look like from the perspective of Elizabeth's loyal and long-suffering lady's maid? We have all heard the tale of the two Victorian literary lights who fell in love,first with one another's poetry,then with the person behind the verse. It was a love that led the sheltered, infirm "spinster' Barrett to leave(in haste and stealth, at the age of 40) her father ...more
Kristin Lennert Murra
This was very interesting until about two-thirds of the way in, when the tone seemed to change and it became very slow going. It was as if all the characters just got tired of each other, and there wasn't anything compelling for me to stay engaged with them (except that I hate leaving a book unread).
Terese vanOel
Initially I couldn't shake the feeling that I was "in" Downton Abbey, but as I got to know the characters, this feeling faded. I loved Elizabeth Wilson's voice, which really pulled me in to the point that my perspective on the people in her world subtly evolved along with hers. Her voice was so authentic that I was expecting to learn that the excerpts from her letters were real, but sadly, there are only historical footnotes about her. It was interesting to peek into the lives of the Brownings a ...more
This is the story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's maid, Elizabeth Wilson -- another example of Forster "re-purposing" research, in this case for her biography of EBB. Just as in Diary of an Ordinary Woman, she does a wonderful job of creating an authentic, convincing voice for Wilson, and the story is full of telling little domestic details. She also marvellously portrays the tensions in the relationship between Wilson and her mistress -- half maid, half friend -- and the way the relationship f ...more
Lady's Maid is a fictional account of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's maid. It started out interesting, and I found myself truly enjoying the story of Barrett's strange home life and interaction with her father, and her courtship with Robert Browning. But it went downhill from there and became slow going until the end. It was interesting to learn about the Brownings' lives, but the story started to plod along, and I found it hard to finish. If you like historical fiction you'll probably enjoy this ...more
I had a little difficulty getting into this book, but once I did it was hard to put down. I really enjoy the way Margaret Forster writes and find her easy to read. The book is 548 pages long with small type, so it took me a while to read.
This book is a historical novel, but as the forward stated, "Fact and fiction have been threaded so closely in this novel that it might help to know exactly haw much of it is based on truth." After reading this book, I have a different perspective of Elizabeth B
Madeline Gannon
Another book I have mixed feelings about... In all honesty, I found this book only mildly interesting at best. It was a very slow read, which often turns me off from books as I like to get completely caught up in the story. However, I did find this story fascinating as well. According to the author, it is based upon a true story, which always makes the characters resonate deeper with me. It was very interesting to analyze the challenges Wilson had to face due to the time period and her position. ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Lily Wilson is not in her first youth when she is hired in 1844 to be lady’s maid to Elizabeth Barrett. She finds a seriously dysfunctional family, under the complete control of the Barrett father, who forbids any of his children to marry. When Lily arrives Elizabeth Barrett is seriously neurotic, but also suffering from an unidentified lung condition and an addiction to opiates. With the help of Elizabeth’s sisters Lily slowly encourages EB to leave the house and eventually to take walks in the ...more
This is the fictional story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's real-life lady's maid, and it was fascinating to read. The author really drew me into the era and Wilson's feelings. I really felt like I was living with Wilson while I was reading this book! "Wilson", of course, is Lily Wilson, who comes from a small town to London to work for Elizabeth Barrett, works for her through her marriage to Robert Browning, miscarriages, the birth of her son, and on and off through the rest of Elizabeth's life ...more
Dec 28, 2009 Gretchen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gretchen by: Nancy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lady's Maid tells the story of Wilson, a girl from the northeast who becomes lady's maid to Elizabeth Barrett. At first she feels alone and awkward in her situation, but slowly she comes to love her mistress and grows in confidence. Wilson becomes increasingly important in Miss Barrett's life, facilitating her secret marriage to Robert Browning and flight to a new life in Italy. Throughout this, Wilson has her own life to contend with: her family, her suitors and her hopes for the future.

I reall
For a while there, I felt this book was a very pleasant mix between I Capture the Castle and Downton Abbey. It was interesting to watch the characters' lives play out. But as the book progressed, it became more difficult to read. The main character's life (the maid, Wilson) does not turn out to be a happy one, which makes me appreciate my freedom more, but I had a hard time understanding how she could remain so sympathetic with her mistress, who was at times just plain nasty to her. I don't unde ...more
This was on more than one list of recommended books. I was attracted to the reviews mentioning the novel's dissection of class and though the setup and title can lead one to believe its a bodice ripper, it is not. The story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's devoted personal servant starts off well enough. Lily Wilson is a lively young woman, a bit reticent from a family of women, her father long dead. Both she and two of her sisters are in service. She moves to London to care for the invalid poete ...more
The Book Maven
I love novels set in the Victorian era. That's all I need to be happy. Nothing hugely remarkable about this book (yet), but atill a pleasant way to while away the evening.

The premise: Wilson is a servant, tried and true. Through luck, she is appointed to the enviable position of lady's maid to a gentlewoman, a sickly poet by the name of Elizabeth. Slowly, Wilson grows attached to her mistress, even being willing to help her elope and accompany her abroad, to the Continent.

As far as I am concern
Jul 06, 2007 Maryll rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in 19th century gossip
An "Upstairs/Downstairs" type rendering of the Barrett and then Browning households and, as the title would suggest, it makes Elizabeth's personal maid seem much more engrossing than the poet herself. If you pick it up, like me, because you're interested in the Brownings art and their marriage, you will leave disappointed. The Brownings themselves come off as rather self-absorbed and oblivious to life in the lower classes. They evidently had a happy marriage but you don't learn much about the pr ...more
Told from the intriguing perspective of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's maid, Wilson, this book asks us to look at the relationship between the English upper-class and their personal servants in the nineteenth century. Where close bonds can develop, as they do here, what are the obligations of a maid to her mistress, and what are the obligations of a mistress to her maid?

Here, the Brownings (especially Elizabeth) do not necessarily come off well, at some points seeming to deliberately throw up obst
Oct 28, 2007 Susan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lit geeks, historical romancers
Lady's Maid does exactly what I want historical fiction to do--it takes us to a time and place not our own, tells us a story we think we already know from a different perspective, and personalizes names and dates that would otherwise be just...well...names and dates. LM is a first-person narrative, told by Wilson, the personal maid of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Following her story from her initial hiring through EBB's death, the reader gets insight into the day-to-day realities of life as a upp ...more
Amy Geriak
I have always enjoyed Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poetry, her sonnets especially -- one was even read at my wedding. This novel was written by one of her biographers, and while that encouraged me, promising historical accuracy, I have to admit that I'm not all that fond of Elizabeth's character or personality. In fact, I find her to be a bit of a self-centered crybaby. And Robert Browning isn't much better.

Luckily, the novel does not focus on them, but rather on Elizabeth's maid, who was not on
This was an interesting if somewhat frustrating book. The writing was good, but the absolute goodness of the protagonist, and her unswervable sense of duty to her Lady, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, were what frustrated me. She constantly put her employer's needs above her own, and although she was afforded special privelege and was "almost" a friend, she was regularly "dudded" by that Lady.
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500 Great Books B...: Lady's Maid - Margaret Forster 1 5 Jul 27, 2014 07:47PM  
  • The Great Stink
  • Kept
  • The Dark Lantern
  • Emma Brown
  • Passion: A Novel of the Romantic Poets
  • Afterimage
  • Captivity
  • Jerusalem
  • The Mesmerist
  • Lady of the Butterflies
  • Misfortune
  • The Tailor's Daughter
  • The Observations
  • The Winter Mantle
  • Grace Hammer : a Novel of the Victorian Underworld
  • Wicked Company
  • The Linnet Bird
  • Clara
Margaret Forster was educated at the Carlisle and County High School for Girls. From here she won an Open Scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford where in 1960 she was awarded an honours degree in History. The day after she finished her final exams, she married the writer Hunter Davies, whom she met and fell in love with at the age of 17.

Since 1963 Margaret Forster has worked as a novelist, biog
More about Margaret Forster...
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