The Maid’s Room by Fiona Mitchell

themaidsroom

I was fortunate enough to receive a proof copy of The Maid’s Room, the debut novel by Fiona Mitchell who has spent many years as a writer and journalist. And it is this experience that has helped form this story which provides insight into the life of domestic workers.

When I first heard about the premise of this book, I was keen to read it. I had seen it recommended for readers who enjoyed The Help by Kathryn Stockett which I read and enjoyed a few years ago. And whilst The Help highlights the experiences of domestic workers in 1960’s Mississippi, The Maid’s Room explores the life of domestic workers in the modern era. I was surprised to discover that there are currently 53 million women across the world working as domestic helpers, with a staggering proportion of them having little in the way of legal working rights. In this particular story we meet two sisters, Tala and Dolly, Filipina maids who have left their own families behind to work for expats in Singapore. Through their experiences the reader gets a glimpse into what life is like for the workers, the poor conditions they have to live in, and the rules they must abide by which impact their working and personal lives. And as the sisters do their best to earn a living and provide for their families back home, they are left angered and humiliated when a mysterious blog is written by an employer, one which advises on how domestic workers must be treated and controlled. The points raised here make for uncomfortable reading, but a rival blog is created, one which provides a voice for those struggling to be heard…

It didn’t take long for me to get into this story and I quickly became attached to Dolly and Tala and their plight. I couldn’t help but warm to them and was willing them on to find the happiness that they have worked hard for. The use of the rival blog entries made for an interesting read as it helped portray two very different viewpoints in a modern way. And in addition to the lives of the maids we also find out more about the lives of those who employ them, and the events that shape their lives. We see the relationships between couples and parents and children, and see the ways in which even those who seem on the surface to lead privileged lives, have their own hardships to face. Mitchell’s background in journalism gives her characters an authentic voice and the writing style is both informative and compelling. It is a book that deals with some difficult issues, but there is also plenty of humour along the way, and a feeling of hope that makes it both heartbreaking and uplifting.

I enjoyed reading The Maid’s Room, a book which had me gripped which also opened my eyes to the struggles faced by domestic workers in Singapore and around the world. It is a story that highlights some difficult issues, and how we can overcome them to change lives for the better.

The Maid’s Room is to be published on 16th November 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton. With thanks to Ruby Mitchell for providing a proof copy for review.

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