As a baby, Harriet Coram is dropped off at a foundling home in mid-19th century England. She goes on “loan” to a loving foster country family until she is five, but later, she sorrowfully returns to the foundling home to train in domestic duty. When young, headstrong Harriet is hired as a household maid for the illustrious Mr. Charles Dickens, she has a difficult time adjusting to a thorny relationship with Mrs. Dickens’s sister, Miss Georgina, who taunts her and nicknames her “Tattycoram” after the foundling home’s uniform. Throughout, Harriet is torn between serving the rich in their lavish settings and choosing the freedom of a poverty-filled country life with her foster family.
Charles Dickens becomes Harriet’s mentor, but thirty years later someone from her past challenges her to confront Mr. Dickens about his unflattering portrayal of her in one of his books. Harriet must decide whether Charles Dickens’s fame gives him the right to expose her character in an unflattering light.
Audrey Thomas writes this well-researched short novel in a first-person narrative with a historical peek at life within the Dickens home and in mid-19th century London. The portrayal and language of the characters are true to form, with the exception of the antagonist, Miss Georgina; she sounds much older than a twelve-year-old and is malicious beyond her years. Also, Dickens’s betrayal, the main plotline, is introduced at the end of the story and seems like a minor incident compared to all of Harriet’s other trials and tribulations growing up as a child of shame. Overall, a very quick, sweet book to read.