What is a poorer life than a lady’s maid? How about the daughter of a washerwoman and a solider? What if that washerwoman started out a poor prostitute and her husband a destitute drunken solider? What if that poor woman was also a drunk? A wife too depressed to work and the husband gambling too much to hold onto his pay? This is the household that Francoise grows up in, a sad poor and lonely place.
So it’s no wonder that when her parents die she insists on dragging herself out of this household and pushes her way right into the position of ladies maid to one of the richest merchants in her village.
And it’s from this highly sought after position that she falls even father than she’s ever been, to a prison cell waiting for hanging. For such a sad story, this novel actually is extremely enjoyable. It’s written well and the characters draw you in. I could see Francoise throughout the story, her poor patched clothes, her bleary eyed parents, her horror loving friends pushing their way to the front of the crowd to watch a hanging. I felt that I could hear her whispers as she lay on the floor of her prison whispering to her neighbor in the next cell through a hole in the stones.
The best part is that I didn’t even realize until the end that the main character is based on actual records of a woman’s experiences in 18th century France. I’ve always loved the way writers bring to life small characters of the world and flesh out their story until you wish you’d known them. Just a tiny line in history can bring a whole story to life with the right writer.
And as to where the hangman in the mirror comes in, you’ll have to read it