Monday, March 6, 2017
Book Review: The Housekeeper
It’s common advice in today’s busy households: Pick up your stuff; the maids are coming. It’s a joke that reveals a universal truth: We don’t like other people to see our dirty laundry, even when we are paying them to handle it. But after a while, we let our guard down. Maybe we shouldn’t.
British sous chef Anne Morgan is a huge fan of lifestyle expert Emma Helmsley. When Anne quits her job after learning her boss and lover is cheating on her, she finagles a job running Emma’s household, which includes Emma’s high-profile academic husband Rob and their teenagers Jake and Lily. Anne becomes quickly attached to the family. But the family may not be everything they seem…
This is the perfect set-up for a psychological thriller, because anyone could turn out to be the bad guy. A huge fan who sets herself up in her idol’s home? A housekeeping star who needs someone else to actually run her household? Or what about the husband? Have we learned nothing from The Hand that Rocks the Cradle?
Unfortunately, I read too much into the marketing material, which gushes about The Housekeeper as a suspense thriller. While it’s engaging and extremely well-written—I stopped several times to marvel at phrases that had me finding meaning in a soggy bowl of cornflakes—the suspense in the book was mostly lacking.
My biggest issue is that the plot complications hinge upon a huge coincidence. It happens somewhere near the middle, so I won’t give it away. But the book is more concerned with Anne’s past – her mother died mysteriously when she was very young, and she was raised by a loving grandmother who told her little—and that past becomes crucial to the present. Anne thinks about her past, dreams about it, journals about it. That subplot was not what I expected when I picked up the book.
Anne is a protagonist to root for, even though she disregards her best friend’s advice and makes the Helmsleys’ problems her own. She becomes so deeply ensconced in this family that she ceases to have a life of her own. Most books enroll the reader in rooting for the protagonist to achieve her goals. In this case, I was rooting for Anne to grow a backbone and get a life.
The ending, however, works well. People are shown to be whom they first revealed themselves to be. The bad guy eventually gets theirs…. Although it’s unfortunate that the good guy doesn’t deliver that justice.
An unexpected bonus is that Anne gives readers cooking tips as she runs Emma’s household. If I knew how to do anything more than boil pasta, I would have written down those tips.
Thanks to BookSparks for the book in exchange for an honest review. This is part of their Wintervention.