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A night they'll never forget

Cover of The Housekeepers
A review of The Housekeepers by Alex Hay

I flew for the first time since the pandemic last week and I'd forgotten how much reading I can get done when I'm trapped in my seat on a crowded plane. Almost one book on the way out and another on the way home. In the first of them, a blurb describes The Housekeepers as a cross between Downton Abbey and Ocean's 8 - a description that appealed to me on all fronts. 

The novel opens in a wealthy (nouveau riche for sure) household in 1905 London. Mrs. King, the housekeeper, is being dismissed from her position in the de Vries household for immoral behavior. She was caught leaving the men's section of the servant's floor early in the morning. A big no-no for a female servant in a "decent" household. Thus she's let go on the spot. But what initially seems like a devastating blow to a woman with limited options in turn-of-the-century London, is perhaps not as bad as it seems. In fact, Mrs. King already has a plan on what she'll do next. That plan includes pulling a disparate group of women together to pull off a scheme she's been finalizing for some time. 

I don't want to say too much more about the plot as the surprises are so delightful, each as they're revealed, layer by layer, person by person. The comparison of this as Downton crossed with Ocean's 8 is a fair one as regards plot. That said, the setting and world-building delves below the gloss of those two worlds - and no, I don't mean the nice, tidy downstairs at DA. Here is a grittier, dirtier, more desperate world where the injustice of class divisions is ever present. Given all the twists and turns and the very real suspense in whether they can pull it all off, this was a perfect novel for the plane. It's also perfect for a car trip, train ride or the beach - wherever your summer vacation may take you (publication date is July).

Apr 18, 2023