Van has finished reading… The Maid’s Room by Fiona Mitchell

11 Dec

There can’t be many of us who haven’t seen that clip of a housemaid begging for help as she clings to the outside of a building seven floors up. The fact there’s a clip of it speaks volumes but the true impact comes with the realisation that it’s the employer who is not helping but filming. The nationalities and location involved may be different but this is very much the world Fiona Mitchell’s The Maid’s Room addresses.

There’s a good cross-section of characters in both the ex-pat employers and the Filipina person for hire factions of the cast – both areas where it would’ve been easy to pick something off-the-peg. In each case Fiona Mitchell plays those expectations against each other well to draw out her themes of identity and value but where The Maid’s Room shines for me is in the story itself. The sense of cause and effect is really nicely balanced and as the story rolls on the tension keeps you turning the pages. Just what you want from a piece of fiction.

Then read the author’s note and see just how much of this story is effectively reportage – that this could almost be narrative non-fiction. I can’t think of a single instance of exploitation where the lowest crime has to be the passivity of those around it, the unwillingness to see it for what it is that enables it, even when to do so requires no bravery. We readily applaud the bravery of the people who inspired Tala but we should also recognise our complicity in the fact that they exist, that they’re necessary though every ounce of sense and humanity says they shouldn’t be.

 

The Maid’s Room was published by Hodder & Stoughton on the 16th November 2017 ISBN:9781473659568

You can find Fiona on Twitter @FionaMoMitchell or at her website fionamitchell.org

 

My thanks to Ruby Mitchell at Hodder for allowing me to review this book

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