Late Victorian London. 13-year-old Rose Rivers lives in a large house with her artist father, her self-centred mother, and her six siblings. Her much-loved twin brother has just started boarding school. When he comes home at half-term, he’s changed – and not for the better. He’s a Young Gentleman now. Rose realizes she’s been left behind. What sort of life is she expected to have? She’s thin and unattractive, and she’s had a meagre education. She loves art, but who would be interested in her wickedly satirical drawings?
Then her father invites the handsome artist, Paris Walker, to paint her mother’s portrait, and Rose’s world changes. When sitting for Paris, Mrs Rivers becomes a simpering, flirty woman, which embarrasses Rose horribly. As Rose watches him, she realizes that he thinks in ways Rose herself scarcely dares admit; he doesn’t bow down to espectability, for a start. And she finds him very attractive …
Rose is growing up, and she needs to learn new ways of thinking. When her father introduces a new nursery maid, the artistically-talented Clover Moon, Rose finds herself asking some awkward questions. Why can’t she be friends with Clover, who is her sort of person? Why are the servants treated like an underclass? And, is Paris stringing her mother along? Or herself?
I enjoyed this book. I liked the subtle way the author exposes the huge gap between what men are allowed to say, think and do, and the way women’s lives and thoughts are restricted. She also examines the pernicious effect of the rigid class system. Rose tries to treat the servants as fellow human beings but soon realizes that they find her tentative advances intrusive; she’s one of ‘them’. It’s cleverly done, and we feel Rose’s frustration. Girls of ten plus should love this book. Highly recommended.