Review of Workhouse: Victorian Girl's Diary by Pamela Oldfield

Format: Paperback
Genres: Historical
Pages: 176
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: 03/11/2008
Find The Author: N/A (Author passed away)
Amazon UK/US ¦ Goodreads


It's January 1871 when Edith, the sheltered daughter of a wealthy widow, pays her first eventful visit to the workhouse for the poor. There she meets Rosie, a rebellious, quick-tempered orphan who is always getting into trouble. Edith soon finds herself drawn into Rosie's wild schemes and both their lives are never the same again.

I first encountered the My Story series when I much younger and loved the books I read. I believe at the time there were only five or so published. Although these are short novels and written by very different authors (including Chris Priestly!), the historical descriptions are very vivid and the characters are easy to connect with and understand their situation, despite them being from an era we've never lived in. Now there's lots and lots of books for nearly every period of history, told from both girls and boys points of view. They're just as good as I remember and I highly recommend them!

This story is told from the point of view of Edith, who lives in the year 1871. We follow her through a very eventful year of her life, when her mother first starts taking Edith with her to visit the workhouse she's dedicated her life to. I got a very vivid image of life in the workhouse and none of the sickness, death or dire conditions were glossed over. At the start of the story Edith is a lot more vain but by the end she becomes a true spokesperson for the poor and attempts to help them live a much better life.

Edith often talks about an inmate she feels close to, a girl called Rosie Chubbs, who Edith describes as a 'wild creature'. Despite the harsh conditions and constant  punishments, Rosie never lets the workhouse beat her down and battles against the Master alongside Edith and Edith's mother.

These books are somewhere between an MG and a YA, so there's usually a happy ending, which I like. I hate feeling depressed at the end of a book! It ends very well, with happy enough endings for most of the characters, but not all, sadly.


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