The Maid by Nita Prose
This book is narrated by the main character, Molly, and she has a phenomenally strong, distinctive voice. Deeply concerned with instructions and most importantly, cleaning, she is the ideal maid. She functions discreetly, capably and is almost invisible. Underneath there is a constant narrative of intention, some doubts, reconciling the difficult and often dirty world to her high expectations. Lonely and sometimes confused, she tries hard to recognise what others mean by their actions, but also by their expressions, and sometimes she fails. She is in many ways an employer’s dream, being conscientious almost to a fault. Molly, however, has secrets. Precious and clear memories of her only family, her Gran, are her guide to life, but there comes a time in this beautifully constructed novel when she has to go beyond her beloved grandmother’s precepts. This is a strong novel which looks with almost heartbreaking clarity at a remarkable young woman’s life at a crisis point. A real page turner, this new classic of contemporary writing draws the reader in gently and insidiously, as Molly’s logic becomes almost second nature. Discovering so much as the story develops, the reader may think that they know what is really going on, only to be almost as shocked as Molly is by some developments. Apart from Molly herself, I thought that the other characters were introduced and developed with real flair, and the setting of the hotel and flat which make up most of Molly’s world are carefully described. I was so very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this wonderful book.
The book opens with a description by the narrator of herself, Molly the maid. With a certain amount of clarity, she says that she likes things clean and neat. Her uniform, clean and pressed every day, is like assuming an invisibility cloak, as she puts it on she feels that she becomes invisible to everyone, a silent, non-judgemental cleaning force. It is maybe this wordless acceptance of people’s lives as shown by her folding and tidying, cleaning away people’s mess, that actually endears her to Giselle, the second, glamorous wife to Mr Charles Black. He is a businessman, infamous for his dealings in unspecified matters, but as a frequent guest in the penthouse suite, undoubtedly wealthy. He treats Molly as a necessary but inconvenient item in the hotel. Giselle, however, chats to Molly, revealing perhaps more than she intends to of her real feelings. Molly has regrets, such as an ill advised relationship in her past, but that has not prevented her from hoping that Rodney, bar manager in the hotel, will continue his apparent interest in her. Meanwhile she will keep on cleaning and bringing rooms back to a state of perfection, always mindful of her manager, Mr. Snow’s, words of wisdom.
This is a book which has important things to say about the realities of life for a person who has to reassure herself that people are laughing with her, not at her. It is about innocence on many levels, of true innocence in life and daily situations, and innocence in more complicated emergencies. It is about relationships – with those we love, and with those who do not have others’ best interests in mind. It is a book about how women, who make up the majority in such relatively low paid jobs, have to cope with being ignored. This is an important book in many ways, but also a book that is a very good and satisfying read, and I thoroughly recommend it.