Bethany House (January 1, 2011)
This is only my second time reading Klassen though I have her first two titles on my TBR shelf. After picking up The Silent Governess I knew it was time to make this author a must read. Rarely have I experienced historical novels that not only hook me as a reader as soon as I open the cover, hold my attention throughout, pull together a plausible ending with a thorough resolution of the major story lines, and last but not least transport me through time and space smack dab into the middle of the people, events, and era of the novel. Julie manages all this and so much more. Girl in the Gatehouse is a story of growth, mystery, myth, loss, love, romance, and life as an unrecognized authoress in the midst of 19th century British social mores.
Banished for impetuous indisgression, Mariah is left to her own devices with only her childhood companion/governess to maneuver through her new life. Though her writing has merely been a hobby she has so much time and so little to occupy herself so turns back to her pen and ink for companionship. However she cannot risk further ire from her austere father who banished her in the first place. The societal views of women who publicly acknowledge ownership of novels are twice sneered at when added to the more severe scandal of her youthful misjudgement regarding a male. Since society is known to gossip away their time, the grapevine is sure to carry any notice of her doings despite being hidden away in the country straight to her father’s ears. Thankfully her distant Aunt understands more than Mariah might suspect and though contact has been tightly restricted by her father’s command Mariah isn’t totally alone. Due to the estate’s neighborhood and the parish lack of facilities the gatehouse Mariah is granted for a residence faces the Parish children’s home, poorhouse for those too young, infirm, or elderly to survive the forced labor of the workhouses of the day where most of those without financial support find themselves relegated. Mariah learns much about local legends, the character of humans, the beauty of a heart that cannot be dimmed by outward lack and many other truths from the children and elderly residents of the facility just opposite her new quarters. Each time I pick up one of Klassen’s novels I learn more about the society of Regency Britain, discover new characters to love, and experience a singular story with such varied elements I can’t truly categorize it as any specific genre. Mystery and suspense tend to always appear and the ever present romance strand as well in her works. She crafts a beautiful and entrancing tale set in yesteryear yet never leaves the reader disappointed by a lack of originality or glaring inconsistencies regarding historical settings. (ISBN#9780764207082, 400pp, $14.99)