The Book of the Maidservant


After young Johanna’s mother dies and her family falls apart, she is sent to be a serving girl to Margery Kempe of Lynn, England. Dame Margery has a reputation as a holy woman, but her devout behaviors don’t make her an easy woman to live with. When she decides to go on a pilgrimage to Rome, she selects Johanna to accompany her. Johanna has never been very far from home and has no idea what to expect on this trip. She and Dame Margery join a group of other travelers for safety, but the woman’s behavior causes the group to refuse to travel with her, and they cast her out. Johanna, however, is told to stay to act as everyone’s servant. She is terrified: will she ever see her mistress again? How will she manage to return to England? Johanna turns out to be a resourceful young lady, and readers will root for her during her adventures.

The 15th century Book of Margery Kempe, the first autobiography written in English, actually mentions a young serving girl whom Dame Margery abandoned along the pilgrimage. The author has created a lively story about Johanna and her trials based on several mentions in the autobiography, as described in a helpful author’s note. For ages 10-13, but quite enjoyable by adults, as well!


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