#BookReview: The Maid’s Room by Fiona Mitchell #MPBooks

A powerful and emotional story about the appalling treatment of some domestic workers today.

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The Maid's Room book coverTitle: The Maid’s Room

Author: Fiona Mitchell

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Genre: Contemporary

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Description: ‘This is where she sleeps. A cupboard. A bedroom. A windowless box.’
Sisters Dolly and Tala have never felt further from home. In the blistering heat of Singapore, they spend their days enabling ex-pats to have lives they could never afford for themselves.
Even though she has little freedom, Dolly can just about live with her job if it means she’s able to support her beloved young daughter back in the Philippines. One day – if she’s lucky – Dolly may even be able to go back and see her.
Tala, however, just can’t keep her mouth shut about the restrictive, archaic rules maids are forced to abide by on pain of deportation. She risks everything to help her fellow maids, who have struggled to have their voices heard for far too long.
In a world where domestic workers are treated so poorly, The Maid’s Room explores how women can come together to change each other’s lives, and be the architects of their own futures.

My Review: Oh wow, this book! Set in modern day Singapore it follows the stories of three women, two of them maids from the Philippines, and shows the reality of daily life for domestic workers in a country where their human rights are often ignored. I was really blown away with this novel that’s both heart breaking at times and so through provoking.

The book begins with a short prologue and then starts with the story of Jules, a British expat who’s moved to Singapore with her husband David. The story immediately shows you the lives from the point of those who employ the maids as Jules visits a party of one her neighbours. The following chapters all alternate between Jules, Dolly who is a maid to the woman who hosted the party and Tala, her older sister who cleans for others. Each of the chapters is cleverly marked at the start with a symbol which shows you whose story we’re now going to follow, for example a small plane denotes it’s Jules’s story.

As the chapters alternate you get a real sense of what life is like for these maids and how they are treated. When the chapters are from Dolly or Tala’s points of view the text refers to their employers as Ma’am and you feel the tension and often dislike or dismissal of them by the employers. In contrast Jules is treated respectfully by her neighbours who become friends however, unlike the others she sees the idea of the maids and the way they act as something alien. Jules’s perspective is very much how most of us would see the life of these Filipina maids and it was good to have this alternate perspective among all the women who treated their maids unfairly.

A lot happens in this novel and I never knew what was coming next. In fact it became more and more gripping the further I read on. I was soon hooked and I just couldn’t put this book down! Jules’s story continues and is a heart breaking one as her and her husband try desperately to conceive during their third round of IVF. Although I enjoyed reading Jules’s story, it’s really Dolly and Tala’s tales that interested me most. There were some funny moments as well as some truly sad and heart breaking ones. Dolly’s treatment in particular really got to me. There were moments you loved reading about her closeness with the children and yet the way she is treated by not only her immediate employer but also by others made me feel both emotional as well as disgusted. I don’t want to reveal any of the plot but even her treatment, right to the end of the novel is shocking. Tala’s story was an interesting one and I enjoyed the way she is so different from her sister. I especially loved the funny moments where, on more than one occasion, her feet or cooking skills were mentioned!

I really enjoyed this novel, the ending is a really satisfying one and made me want to cry happy tears but the reality of the way the domestic workers are treated in Singapore is heart breaking. In this day and age the rights of these poor women, living in bomb shelters (which act as their room) where there are no windows and often no hot water to wash themselves is just appalling. What makes this book all the more shocking and I believe necessary for all to read, is because this is actually happening in today’s Singapore!

The book contains some swearing, use of the f and s words as well as some sex though this isn’t throughout the novel, because of this I wouldn’t recommend this to young teens but mature teens and older. At the back of the novel there are author’s notes and I’d recommend everyone read them after finishing the book as you’ll be surprised with how much the story is based in reality, much of it being the author’s own experience.

This is such a powerful and heart wrenching novel, it takes you on such an emotional journey, and I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve always loved books with cultural issues but this one has really touched me and I think everyone should read it.
-Thanks to Bookbridgr and the publisher for a free proof copy.


Do you enjoy reading books about cultural issues?  What about this book?  Have you read it before?  did you know of the plight of domestic workers in Singapore?  Please let me know all your thoughts I’d love to hear from you. 

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#BookReview: North Face by Matt Dickinson #MPBooks

An exciting action adventure book with a far more complex story than first appears.

North Face book coverTitle: North Face (The Everest Files book #2)

Author: Matt Dickinson

Publisher: Vertebrate Publishing

Genre: Young adult (teen) Contemporary, Action

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Description:   Ryan Hart is an 18-year-old adventurer on a mission. To get himself to Mount Everest and check out the truth about the world’s highest peak. Friends have told him dark stories about the mountain, outrageous things that he wants to see for himself.
Just a few hours after Ryan arrives at Everest Base Camp a lethal earthquake strikes. Avalanches pound the glacier, burying Ryan’s climbing buddy and killing many others. A desperate rescue saves Ryan’s friend, but only after a local Tibetan girl Tashi helps with the search.
Stress levels are running high among the climbing teams. The mountain is shut for the season because it is judged too dangerous.
Then a flashlight reveals a clue. Someone is alive, high on Everest’s treacherous north face!
Tashi is convinced it is her 15-year-old brother.
Ryan is prepared to risk everything to help.
Storm clouds gather as they set out on their illegal climb, a do-or-die mission which the local militia will do anything to stop.

My Review:  I really didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did! ‘North Face’ is the second book in ‘The Everest Files’ trilogy and is an exciting read. You don’t have to read the first book to enjoy this one as it works well as a stand alone novel. The story begins with Ryan, an adventurer on a gap year, who arrives at Everest but soon after an earthquake strikes devastating the camp. In the chaos that follows he ends up meeting Tashi, a Tibetan girl who helps him with his friend, but soon it’s Tashi who needs help.

The first chapter of the book is written in the first person and is from Ryan’s perspective but this soon changes to the third person when we hear Tashi’s story. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy this book when reading the first chapter. There was a lot of fast-paced action happening when the earthquake hits but I didn’t really feel much of a connection with Ryan’s character yet. It’s only when chapter two starts, where we read Tashi’s backstory, that I began to feel connected and really interested in reading this book.

Tashi’s tale is a fascinating one and once I’d started reading her story I really couldn’t put this book down. Her story begins with her life with her family, leading a nomadic life free in Tibet. But soon the Chinese military show up ruining everyone’s lives, slowly repressing the Tibetan people, and lives. I don’t want to go into the details of what happens but it’s a sad and at times shocking read. I’ve read a lot of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the freedoms of certain people and cultures being taken away from them, especially during the second world war, but something about reading this book which is set in times today made this all the more shocking.

Apologies for the shadow and out of focus image my camera wouldn’t focus. An example however of the chapter headers.

 

Tashi’s story continues for more than half of the book and eventually reaches the point where she began talking to Ryan. At this point the story switches back to Ryan’s perspective. I didn’t mind this transition at all. It felt natural and I really enjoyed getting to know Tashi and the truth about the authorities repression of her people. I have to admit that it’s the story of what happens to Tashi’s family and her which really drove me to want to read this book. I became completely engrossed in the story and fascinated by the moments of Tibetan culture that are mentioned too.

This book really has a lot of fast-paced action in it although I wouldn’t say that it’s action throughout. Tashi’s parts were slower and more typical of any contemporary novel however what happens on the climb and after is thrilling, especially when there is trouble behind them, during the climb. I don’t want to spoil this part of the story or the ending but there’s a lot more that happens and it was unpredictable right to the end. Even the last moments of action and the last chapter were exciting and I’m surprised with how much I enjoyed this book. It’s made me want to read the entire Everest Files trilogy as there are mentions of something in this story which make me wonder what happened in the first book and what will happen in the next.

Each chapter has a header image which is a beautiful illustration and worth mentioning.  They contain pictures of peacocks, yaks and tigers among other things and it just makes the book all the more special to read.  The descriptions of some of the things that happen to the Tibetan people are a bit disturbing. Though nothing is gruesome it can be a little shocking and there are occasional blunt descriptions of dead bodies and other such things. There isn’t anything offensive though I still wouldn’t recommend this for anyone below teen age. The back of the book has some quick information on where you can find more about Everest and what’s happening with the Tibetan people which is good as this subject has really interested me.

Again a little out of focus the actual image is clearer but a beautiful header image this one of a peacock!!! 😀

 

This book is surprisingly engrossing and a much deeper and important novel than it first appears to be. The descriptions of what’s happening to Tashi, her family and her fellow Tibetans makes this all the more important to read as it’s based in the realities of what is happening today. Although Tashi’s story is fiction, I have no doubt that the author described some of the horrors of what is happening in Tibet today and it makes this such an important read as well as being a really good action story too.

I’d definitely recommend this book to read for everyone teen aged and up and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series to find out what happens!
-Thanks to Vertebrate Publishing for a free copy.


What do you think of this book and series?  Do you like books that highlight cultural and human rights issues?  What about adventure and action novels?  Please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you 🙂

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