Wednesday 23 May 2012

144. Our Australian Girl: Nellie and the Secret Letter (Book 2) by Penny Matthews

Our Australian Girl: Nellie and the Secret Letter (Book 2) by Penny Matthews
Published May 2012 Penguin

From the publisher:

It's 1849 . . . and Nellie is starting her new life as a kitchen maid in a grand Adelaide house with her best friend, Mary. But Nellie's desire to live out her dreams soon leads to a battle with the spiteful cook Bessie Rudge… Can Nellie keep her temper and avoid being thrown out to beg on the streets? And why is Mary acting so strangely?
Follow Nellie on her adventure in the second of four exciting stories about an Irish girl with a big heart, in search of the freedom to be herself.
At the end of Book 1 Nellie had lost her job with Mrs Thompson, when the boarding house burned down and Mrs Thompson and her family moved to Burra Burra.  Nellie is about to embark on her latest adventure when she seeks work in a grand Adelaide home.  Her friend Mary works at the same house as a nursery maid, and Nellie is looking forward to being with her friend once again.

The reality is slightly different from her dream, as Nellie's position in the house is to be that of a kitchen maid, the lowest of the low.  She works for the cantankerous Mrs Bessie Rudge the cook who thinks that the Irish are no better than pigs.  There is also Susan Trott (Trotty), the housemaid, who has a much nicer disposition, and makes Nellie's life a little more bearable.  In this book Nellie also meets her first Chinese person, Lei, who does the laundry.

There's a lot to like about this series.  You get an insight into what Australia was like at different times in history, from the day to day activities undertaken by the characters.  The historical elements don't need to hit you over the head, you can see the differences between life then and now throughout the story.  In this story for example, if you want to write a letter you need more than a pen and paper, you will need paper, ink, pen holder and nibs.  Likewise if money is tight, as it is for Nellie and you need a new dress, you can't just buy a new dress, you have to buy the fabric, the thread, the pattern and then make the dress yourself.

This series about Nellie is set in Adelaide, so for me, an Adelaide girl, it especially nice to see my home town as it was in 1849.  Much of it different, but many of the street names and suburbs the same.

Who will like this book: Girls age
Read it if you like: Our Australian Girl series

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