Unimpressed by the world of debutante balls, Monica Dickens shocked her family by getting a job. With no experience whatsoever, she gained employment as a cook-general. Monica's cooking and cleaning skills left much to be desired, and her first few positions were short lived, but soon she started to hold her own.
Monica discovered the pleasure of daily banter with the milkman and grocer's boy, and the joy of doing an honest day's work, all the while keeping a wry eye on the childish pique of her employers. One Pair of Hands is a fascinating and thoroughly entertaining memoir of life upstairs and downstairs in the early 1930s.
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Different times & different attitudes
An insight into a a world that we hope no longer exists
I wasn't sure at first but once she got into her stride she did a good job
I didn't find anything moving,it's not that kind of book
It had a vein of patronising the servant class in it I thought,rich girl from good family slumming it while at the same time doing someone who may have actuall needed work out of a job.Nevertheless it was entertaining.
- Love to read
Dickens goes into service despite being from an upper middle class family herself. At first she is intrigued by the working classes. The variety of characters are amusing. The book shows us the social context of the time - the 'servant problem' is depicted differently in the different households she encountersl
I liked the character depictions the best. Working class folk are depicted as gossipy, body focussed illiterates with a slight immorality about some of them - there are hints of theft, affairs and sexual liaisons. However the wealthy upper classes are depicted as gossipy, society focussed, shallow, with a fickleness to them and an immorality to them - there are hints of sexual liaisons and corruption.
The introduction is funny.
Her exhaustion while at the Vaughan household made me realise how difficult the life in service was. Days from 7 a.m to 11 p.m made the people exhausted and depressed. When she passed out while at the dance club it moved me to think of her so tired and so underappreciated.
The book is often criticised as having no story - but it is a biography. This is the story of Monica's time in service. It's a selection of chronological memories of her encounters. Each house is slightly different and she slowly realises the truth of a life in service. Her awakening at the end is uplifting but it does make you wonder about the women and men who couldn't just pack it in if they got bored. Many had to stay in the life of drudgery and hardship with bosses who worked them too hard.