There are plenty of reasons to suspect, right from the beginning, that something bad is going to happen to the 15-year-old narrator, but there are at least three potential sources for danger to her, and we don’t really know from whence it will come.
It’s 1831, and Mary, 15, is the youngest daughter of four girls, with a bad leg and hair the color of milk. Her cold-hearted father keeps the girls working constantly on their farm, beating them when he thinks they are slacking off. Somehow Mary retains a positive outlook on life, even though her sisters and mother are cruel to her. Only her crippled grandfather (also mistreated by the rest of the family) has any regard for Mary.
After a particularly violent beating from her father, Mary is “sold” to the Vicar over the hill to be a caretaker for his ailing wife. There, she is offered a chance to learn to read and write, and she eagerly accepts. But there is a price to pay, and it is beyond reckoning.
Discusson: The story is told as if it were a diary or letter by Mary, in her barely literate form, viz:
“i don’t like to tell you all this. there are things i do not want to say.
but i told my self i would tell you everything that happened. i said i would say it all and for this i must do it.”
The tone is absolutely compelling, with an edge of danger and dread from the very beginning. Mary is a glorious source of sunlight in the middle of a horrifying dark and disturbing tale.
Evaluation: This is excellent literature, and the story will haunt you. Like Emma Donoghue’s Room, you want to cover your eyes as the truth unfolds, yet you can’t look away. This short book is worth your time; highly recommended.
Published in the U.S. by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2012