Diane's Reviews > The Book of the Maidservant

The Book of the Maidservant by Rebecca Barnhouse
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's review
May 10, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: at-ncrl, young-adult, history, fiction
Read on May 30, 2011

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 and of Johanna's coming of age.

I enjoyed the story and the 15th century walk across Europe - I would have enjoyed more medieval sights. I particularly liked the sense of distance and of lack of communication - for example, one of the fellow pilgrims saves Johanna but she never learns what happened to him. There is also a fair representation of the simple food and the bad sanitation.

It turns out that there really was a Dame Margery Kempe who dictated an autobiographical account of her pilgrimage to Rome, including a good bit about her maid Johanna. It is a young adult book and a very good one. The author teaches and her specialty is literature about children in the Middle Ages - what a wonderful idea!

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