One Pair of Hands

Originally published in July 2004, on my original 52 Books blog.

I’ve been on a reading spree lately - a book per day on average - mostly books I'm too lazy to review, but here’s one I recommend:

Author: Monica Dickens
Year published: 1939
Pages: 140
Genre: Autobiography, memoir
Where got: Public library

The story:
This is Monica Dickens’ memoir of her one-and-half years as a cook general and housemaid in the 1930’s. She started this work because she was bored and didn’t have anything to do with herself, rather than from any real need for money. This is quite a funny glimpse of a profession that doesn’t exist any more in Britain. Dickens mostly worked for respectable middle class families that today would at the most have someone come in to do the cleaning, but she also got a taste of working as a cook at a country manor. She tells of her own kitchen accidents, sloppiness and incompetence with good humoured sarcasm, and doesn’t spare her employers or co-workers either, but also gives praise where she feels praise is deserved. She gets fired when her first employer's boyfriend gets grabby, resigns from her country manor job when the butler tries to blackmail her, and goes through many misadventures which can’t have seemed funny at the time, but certainly gave her material for a very entertaining book.

Written in an easy, humorous style with a light touch of sarcasm. Dickens' character studies are funny and well-drawn, and she has a good eye for the absurd.

Quite a funny look at life in service in 1930’s England. 4 stars.


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