IR Historical Fiction

Quest for a Maid by Frances Mary Hendry

Liz lent this to me ages ago and I kept forgetting I had it! Finally this weekend, I sat down, determined to read it so I could finally, finally give it back to her. I was a little wary of it because of that cover – it does not look like a happy book, does it?!

But holy cow! They do NOT write books like this anymore. That’s meant to be a compliment if it’s not clear. It was amazing. I think it was written in 1988 or 1989 and it definitely has that quality of late-90s middle grade fiction. And again, that’s meant to be a compliment. Something about it – and I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to put it into words – made me think of classic books like Caddie Woodlawn, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Last Silk Dress, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, On Fortune’s Wheel, and, another one of my all-time favorites, A Murder for Her Majesty. And now I’m a little bit grumpy with my childhood librarian for never recommending this to me – I was 8 years old when it came out, exactly the right age to be reading this!

It took me a couple of chapters to really get into it – Hendry writes her characters’ dialect which is fairly thick Scots and it took me a while to be able to stop reading aloud in my head sometimes – but then I was hooked! The main character, Meg, is feisty and noble, as she should be and the secondaries are all very well fleshed out – evil when they should be and loyal when they should be. And, man, can she write a sailing scene! After the chase scene in Hugo Cabret, I think the last four or so chapters were the fastest I’ve turned pages in a long time.

My rating: A