The Mayflower Maid

Written by Sue Allan
Review by Rachel A Hyde

It’s always a treat to get a book from a small publishing house, and an even bigger treat if the book turns out to be a good one. This is the tale of the Mayflower Maid, an obscure servant who is mentioned as being on that ship and arriving in the New World. We don’t know much about her, but in this novel her life as this author imagines it is laid before us: her unhappy beginnings in rural Lincolnshire, her involvement with the Separatists, years in service, engagement, and subsequent departure on the Mayflower.

Ms Allan has endeavoured to get under the skin of everyday life in the early 17th century and manages it well, conveying a sense of immediacy and excitement. I particularly enjoyed seeing the viewpoint of a minor player in this well-known story, making this grand drama seen very human and fresh. Life on board the Mayflower and after making landfall are described in unflinching detail, making it one of those important and useful historical novels which, I felt, tells is like it actually was without idealising it. This is not a long book, but it is crammed with incident and manages to make history – and a story that we all think we know well – seem close and exciting. It looks as if there is going to be a sequel too…