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Publisher's Summary

Working as a housekeeper was one of the most prestigious jobs a 19th and early 20th century woman could want - and also one of the toughest. A far cry from the Downton Abbey fiction, the real life Mrs. Hughes was up against capricious mistresses, low pay, no job security, and grueling physical labor. Until now, her story has never been told.
The Housekeeper's Tale reveals the personal sacrifices, bitter disputes and driving ambition that shaped these women's careers. Using secret diaries, unpublished letters, and the neglected service archives of our stately homes, Tessa Boase tells the extraordinary stories of five working women who ran some of Britain's most prominent households.
Dorothy Doar was Regency housekeeper for the obscenely wealthy first Duke and Duchess of Sutherland at Trentham Hall, Staffordshire. Sarah Wells, a deaf and elderly Victorian (mother to H.G. Wells), was in charge of Uppark, West Sussex. Ellen Penketh was Edwardian cook-housekeeper at the impecunious Erddig Hall in the Welsh borders. Hannah Mackenzie ran Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, Britain's first country-house war hospital. Grace Higgens was cook-housekeeper to the Bloomsbury set at Charleston farmhouse in East Sussex for half a century.
Revelatory, gripping and unexpectedly poignant, The Housekeeper's Tale champions the invisible women behind the English country house.
©2014 Tessa Boase (P)2016 Tessa Boase
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Pamela Jane on 09-14-17

Utterly intriguing

If you could sum up The Housekeeper's Tale in three words, what would they be?

This is a meticulously researched and absorbing book, and a glimpse into the stories of the women who ran the country estates in the19th Century. My only reservation is with the production itself which employs over-wrought music to mark the introduction and chapters. Listeners of audio books prefer to have the words speak for themselves and not be assaulted by heavy-handed music which strives to set the mood or ramp up the drama. Still, I can't recommend the book itself highly enough.

Any additional comments?


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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

By Jenn on 04-28-17

Good historical insight

What did you love best about The Housekeeper's Tale?

I loved the real-life stories of these housekeepers. Their memories are often lost to history and I appreciated the research that went into telling their stories.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Difficult choice- I liked all of them for different reasons.

What about Tessa Boase’s performance did you like?

She was easy to listen to.

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

How similar their stories are, despite spanning more than a century.

Any additional comments?

I really didn't care for the transition music between chapters and parts. To me, it took away from the story. I just want the audio of the text, delivered in a pleasant voice.

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6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Amazon Customer on 07-21-17


This book was narrated perfectly well but I found the 'incidental ' music unpleasant, annoying and unnecessary.
The content of the book was interesting and thought provoking although I did feel that, at times, the author made some unwarranted assumptions.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

By K. G. Harmon on 11-15-16

Too many stars? Not really.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, I would because it is not only well researched but absorbing and moving.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Sarah Wells. Her plight late in life and the scrutiny of her famous son made this fascinating.

Have you listened to any of Tessa Boase’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Don't know of any.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There were too many to mention.

Any additional comments?

The voice is beautiful and modulated and appropriate to the content, though you can occasionally hear indignation bubbling under the surface.

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7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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