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Mrs England by Stacey Halls - Review

Thursday, January 26, 2023

I saw this book in Waterstones just before Christmas but couldn't justify spending the money on it, so I didn't buy it. Then I saw it was 99p on Kindle so I bought it there between Christmas and New Year. I do try to avoid Amazon but I really wanted to read this, so there we are. This was the first book I picked up in 2023, and boy was it a great way to start the year! 

So Ruby is a Norland nanny, trained to be one of the best nannies in the world, and she is working happily for the Radletts in London, looking after baby Georgina and awaiting the arrival of Mrs Radlett's second baby. But then the Radletts announce they are moving to Chicago. They want Ruby to go, but Ruby can't make her family cope without the wages she sends home every month. She returns to Norland College and speaks to 'Sim', her trainer, who offers her a new job in Yorkshire. 

Ruby takes it, despite the misgivings both women have. She arrives and is picked up by the master himself, Mr England, and taken to his home at the bottom of a valley in wildest West Yorkshire. (I'm from West Yorkshire and could all too well imagine exactly where the house was located). Mr England is a mill owner but the house is very isolated. Ruby immediately doesn't get along with the other members of staff - partly, I feel, because she thinks herself above the domestic staff. She is a nurse, not a nursemaid, as she tells us several times. 

There are four children - Decca, Saul, Millie, and baby Charley. The girls aren't educated, something which Ruby brings up with Mr England when he is friendly towards her. Saul is tutored by Mr Booth, who arrives every day between 9 and 12. He is engaged to one of the kitchen staff. 

And then there's Mrs England. Mr England warns Ruby to lock the nursery door at night, but why exactly? Mrs England seems to get easily confused and is distant from her children, but heartbroken when Decca is sent away to school. Ruby's mail goes missing, or does it? Any what does the local blacksmith want with Mrs England? Ruby's family has secrets too - what exactly are they? The ending is ambiguous too, but brilliantly done! 

This is a really well done gothic novel, where everything gets turned upside down more than once. I haven't read anything by Stacey Halls before but I'll definitely read more by her as I absolutely devoured this. I'm giving this five out of five.

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