Author: Rebecca Barnhouse

ISBN: 978-0-375-85856-7


Click Here To PurchaseThe Book of the Maidservant 

Rebecca Barnhouse has succeeded in recreating the world of pilgrims in the 15th Century. From  her very first sentence, she has you believing that you are indeed in that era.


Narrated in the first person with the voice of Johanna, The Book of the Maidservant is based on a true account of a pilgrimage. This young adult book easily plunges us into the medieval era. In fact, Barnhouse's mistress, Marjerie Kempe really did exist and the book is based on her autobiography. In it, Marjerie tells the story of her pilgrimage to Rome.


A map of their meandering by foot illustrates their voyage to Rome. We follow the pilgrims from Lynn to Yarmouth to Zierikzee, then Cologne and Constance. They even went through the Alps to Bolzano, Venice, Bologna and finally Rome, of course on foot all the way. With no proper shoes or dress!


Johanna, her miserable mistress Marjerie Kempe and a bunch of colorful companions set sail across the channel and start walking to Rome. Unbeknown to Johanna, she has to cook and clean for the whole group, fetching freezing water, lighting the fire with a flint and a stone, cooking and washing their clothes in dirty water, etc. Turns out that Marjerie is a hypocrite and a nuisance to the group, and has to separate from them, while Johanna still has to serve the whole group.


At every bend of the road, we get to know Johanna better. We labor with her, we discover human nature. Who are the good guys, who are the rotten ones, who are the hypocrites? In one word, we experience her life. We see a glimmer  of hope when love buds between herself and Thomas, a young scholar traveling with her group. The author has effectively succeeded in making Johanna come alive, not a figment of her imagination.


The Book of the Maidservant is a page turner, highly recommended for those who are used to a cushy life. Rebecca Barnhouse is a beacon of pilgrim knowledge, with all their hypocrisy and their goodness. It is reminiscent of Tracy Chevalier's The Girl With the Pearl Earring.

Click Here To PurchaseThe Book of the Maidservant