Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Book of the Maidservant by Rebecca…

The Book of the Maidservant (2009)

by Rebecca Barnhouse

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
909134,128 (3.53)9

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 9 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
This book was lovely, and became even more so when I read the author's note at the end. It's based on The Book of Margery Kempe, the first autobiography in English, which details Kempe's religious pilgrimages. When she read that book, Rebecca Barnhouse paid attention to how Kempe described her maidservant and thought it sounded a little fishy. This is the part I love—that Barnhouse was able to see through Kempe's own words and imagine what Kempe was like from the maid's perspective. Johanna is a likable narrator and her story is at times so painful and frustrating that I just kept wishing, over and over, that the next sentence would have her hauling back and punching certain characters right in the face.

For me, the description of life in the fifteenth century was wonderful and so fascinating to read. And unlike many other YA books I've read, this one is very well-written; I loved the style, and didn't have to keep reminding myself, "it's written for kids, it's written for kids" (*cough*Rick Riordan*cough*). I loved the chance to see what the life of a young girl in Europe in the 1400s was like.
  mirikayla | Feb 8, 2016 |
Really enjoyed this one, especially the character of Johanna and the historical details. I found my chest getting tight and my shoulders tensing as I read, out of sympathy for Johanna and my anger at Margery and some of the other characters. I don't actually know when I've been more furious with a fictional character (or in this case a based-on-historical character). In some ways that made this an uncomfortable book to read, but also a rewarding one, and I cheered wholeheartedly at the end.

I'm very much looking forward to more from Rebecca Barnhouse!
  devafagan | Jan 2, 2015 |
inspired by The Book of Margery Kempe, the first autobiography in English; many references to Mary and other Catholic beliefs so might have an audience with the parochial students. It didn't grab me and I like this time in history, maybe another day. ( )
  lindap69 | Apr 5, 2013 |
{ Full review originally posted on my blog, PidginPea's Book Nook. }

I wasn't sure what to expect from The Book of the Maidservant, but the wonderful writing and the swiftly moving plot sucked me in from the very beginning and didn't let me go. The action builds rapidly as Johanna finds herself facing one adventure after another, meeting wonderful friends and terrible enemies along the way.

I'm not very familiar with medieval history, but Barnhouse definitely brought the time period alive. You can see and hear and smell everything right along with Johanna, both the good and the bad. As Johanna travels with the pilgrims, you get to experience medieval Europe through the eyes of a young girl, who must serve the party but still tries to preserve her own independence as much as she can.

Johanna struggles with her faith throughout the book in very realistic and age-appropriate ways. In a world and time where being a good and devout Christian is of great importance, she tries hard to keep her thoughts and actions kind, despite the many injustices being done to her. As she gets into increasingly difficult situations, she starts to feel like God and the saints have abandoned her. As she deals with all of this, the book never feels preachy. It simply allows you in to Johanna's thoughts as she tries to figure things out on her own.

The Book of the Maidservant was one of the best books I've read in a while. It's a wonderful work of middle grade historical fiction: realistic and educational while remaining very interesting and relatable. ( )
1 vote PidginPea | Jul 21, 2012 |
In this historical fiction work set in 15th Century Europe, Johanna serves as a maidservant to Dame Margery Kempe, a holy woman given to fits of religious passion, who, despite her great piety, mistreats her servants. When Dame Margery decides to go on a pilgrimage to Rome, she takes Johanna with her, and after a dangerous journey full of conflicts, abandons Johanna in Venice. Without speaking the local language, any money, or any idea of how to return to England, Johanna must find a way to survive on her own.

The narrative is packed with small details about Medieval life, so Johanna's story conveys a fully-realized picture of the 15th Century, and the well developed setting makes Johanna's character, situation and danger believable. Johanna is an engaging narrator, and a great strength of this book is her character development, for as the journey progresses, Johanna transforms from an angry, but timid, servant to a resourceful woman who is able to confront both her own personal demons and the mistress who mistreated her. A wonderful scene near the end of the novel conveys the extent of Johanna's growth as she admits/realizes that she has been deceiving herself about the circumstances that brought her to be in Margery's employ, and that the person she has cast as the villain in her life is not at all the one responsible for her misfortune. As the author's note explains, the character of Dame Margery is based on a real person, who is known because she is the author of the first English autobiography, and while fiction, much of the story is based on Dame Margery's account as well as those of other pilgrims. The reader, however, does not need to be familiar with the historical context to appreciate the story, and this book would be enjoyed by high school age readers. ( )
  frood42 | Dec 15, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rebecca Barnhouseprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Duerden, SusanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375858563, Hardcover)

“A funny and wise book about friendship, loyalty, and love.”—Karen Cushman

Johanna is a servant girl to Dame Margery Kempe, a renowned medieval holy woman. Dame Margery feels the suffering the Virgin Mary felt for her son but cares little for the misery she sees every day. When she announces that Johanna will accompany her on a pilgrimage to Rome, the suffering truly begins. After walking all day, Johanna must fetch water, wash clothes, and cook for the entire party of pilgrims. Then arguing breaks out between Dame Margery and the other travelers, and Johanna is caught in the middle. As the fighting escalates, Dame Margery turns her back on the whole group, including Johanna. Abandoned in a foreign land where she doesn’t even speak the language, the young maidservant must find her own way to Rome.

Inspired by the fifteenth-century text The Book of Margery Kempe, the first autobiography in English, debut novelist Rebecca Barnhouse chronicles Johanna’s painful journey through fear, anger, and physical hardship to ultimate redemption.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:20 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In 1413, a young maidservant accompanies her deeply religious mistress, Dame Margery Kempe, on a pilgrimage to Rome. Includes author's note on Kempe, writer of "The Book of Margery Kempe," considered by some to be the first autobiography in the English language.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
17 wanted2 pay2 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.53)
2 2
2.5 1
3 5
3.5 1
4 8
5 2


An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 105,942,101 books! | Top bar: Always visible