Monday, June 15, 2020

85. The Downstairs Girl

The Downstairs Girl. Stacey Lee. 2019. 374 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical fiction; YA Fiction]

First sentence: Being nice is like leaving your door wide open. Eventually, someone's going to mosey in and steal your best hat. Me, I have only one hat and it is uglier than a smashed crow, so if someone stole it, the joke would be on their head, literally. Still, boundaries must be set. Especially boundaries over one's worth.

Premise/plot: Jo Kuan is the heroine of The Downstairs Girl a historical novel set in Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1890s. When the novel opens, Jo is employed in a millinery shop as an assistant. But she won't keep her job long--much to her regret. Soon she's forced to work as a lady's maid--something she finds unpleasant to say the least. Caroline Payne is a PAIN. But when she's not busy keeping silent in her service--or trying to, or "trying" to--she's busy working as MISS SWEETIE an "agony aunt" or advice columnist for a local newspaper. Her views are more often than not non-traditional and counter to convention. For example, why shouldn't women be suffragists and campaign to get the vote?

My thoughts: I enjoyed this historical romance. The romance is subtle-not-subtle. There's a slight romance element to it overall, but it's never front and center. It is never the point. Jo Kuan isn't about trying to get a man, or looking for love, or looking for THE ONE. Jo is trying to balance blending in and hanging on the fringes of society and speaking her mind and getting noticed. Sometimes to stand up for what is right, one has to call attention to one's self.

Much of the novel is about her treatment in the South and in America. She's Asian/half-Asian. I am not convinced that she would have faced less prejudice in other places. But perhaps other states--Western states--there would have been more like her for her to socialize with and be a part of a social group/class. 

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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