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Lady's Maid

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,429 Ratings  ·  188 Reviews
She was Elizabeth Barrett's lady's maid. But "Wilson" was more than that. She was a confidante, friend and conspirator in Elizabeth's forbidden romance with Robert Browning. Wilson stayed with Elizabeth for sixteen years, through every trial and crisis, and when Wilson's affairs took a dramatic turn she expected the same loyalty from Elizabeth....
ebook, 576 pages
Published August 22nd 2012 by Ballantine Books (first published 1990)
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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
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
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
Dec 26, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So many opportunities missed by the author in this book, what a shame!

The first and glaring one - why isn't this in first person? The story is in Lily Wilson's point of view throughout, so why choose third person? And why, oh why, is Lily always referred to as "Wilson"? Sure, Wilson is what she's called by her employers - but we, as readers, don't want to know Wilson, the dehumanised servant - we want to know Lily, the real person. I felt the combination of the formal surname and the third perso
Jul 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 12, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 17, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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).
Feb 10, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Don't read. 500+ pages of gloom.
Nov 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
Jan 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 23, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dana Loo
Valutazione 4,5
Un romanzo dai ritmi lenti ma narrato in maniera magistrale. La storia di un rapporto dalle mille sfaccettature, due donne, due condizioni sociali diverse e sullo sfondo il ritratto di un'epoca, quella vittoriana, che dettava rigidamente regole e comportamenti anche in materia di sentimenti.
La devozione di Lily, personaggio realmente esistito, verso la sua padrona, la grande poetessa Elizabeth Barrett Browning, è assoluta. Anche nei momenti più critici in cui la consapevolezza di
Mary Williams
If you are a fan of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and want to remain one, you might want to skip this book. Although fictionalized, it is based on Browning's life story through the eyes of her maid, Lily Wilson. According to the book’s endnotes, Wilson (as Elizabeth and her husband, fellow poet Robert Browning, called her) was an actual person. Many years after leaving the service of the Brownings, Wilson was rescued from poverty and cared for by the Brownings’ son Pen, who adored and depended on h ...more
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though I was not overly impressed with Lady's Maid I was unable to put it down and stop reading it entirely.

Wilson was not just a maid to Mrs. Barrett but a friend and a confidant. I really liked Wilson at times and other times I did not care for her much. She had a hard life and clearly struggled to make the most of her life. Worshiping her mistress she showed no hesitation in leaving all she knew to make Mrs. Barrette into Mrs. Browning. As for growth I am not really sure Wilson's person
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I rather liked this, though it does have some grim slow sections. I especially liked the examination of the relationship between mistress and servant - and how the main character was, from time to time, trapped by that. The Brownings are, in this telling, completely self-absorbed and focused on their own interests - sometimes very harshly so - and those sections were really the most wrenching. A really interesting book and very compelling.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Compulsive reading.

The language used by Margaret Forster feels entirely fitting and brings the reader to the period so well. The story is full of insights and reveals a set of characters with complete authenticity. Highly recommended.
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, 2011, 1990s
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
Nora Littell
Jul 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lily Wilson comes to London as a young woman to be lady’s maid to Elizabeth Barrett, a charming invalid. Like everyone in the Browning family she soon adores “Ba” and becomes her companion as well as maid. She helps Elizabeth elope with Robert Browning and moves to Italy with the couple, devoting her life to them.

But this is her story, not Elizabeth’s, and she wonders if she will ever be more than a lady’s maid, ever have a life outside the Browning household. She’s sending money home to family
Dec 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gretchen by: Nancy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book partly because of my love for Downton Abbey, partly the same for Italy. Fact and fiction have been threaded so closely in this book about Elizabeth Wilson being a lady's maid to Elizabeth Barnett that it is best to read the Afterword in the book. The Downton Abbey atmosphere was only there in the first part of the book at Wimpole Street, London as from 1844. After Elizabeth Barnett eloped to marry Robert Browning the financial position of the pair (both poets) deteriorated and ...more
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500 Great Books B...: Lady's Maid - Margaret Forster 1 8 Jul 27, 2014 07:47PM  
  • The Great Stink
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  • The Taste of Sorrow
  • Emma Brown
  • Jerusalem
  • The Dark Lantern
  • Captivity
  • The Winter Mantle
  • Misfortune
  • The Trespass
  • Angelica
  • The Assyrian
  • Grace Hammer : a Novel of the Victorian Underworld
  • Gillespie and I
  • The Trial of Elizabeth Cree
  • Gone with the Windsors
  • Afterimage
  • The Scandal of the Season
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.

From 1963 Margaret Forster worked as a novelist, biographer and freelance literary critic, contributing regularly to book programmes on television, to Radio 4 and various newpapers and magazin
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“She smiled slightly as she continued to gaze at the passing scene: she was being a snob and delighting in it.” 1 likes
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