A mansion filled with eccentricity and trinkets galore creates a perfect backdrop for this story set in the Roaring Twenties. Twelve-year-old Martha and her mother serve as chamber maids to millionaire Mr. Sewell. As the owner of a well-known newspaper, Mr. Sewell works to sway the public’s opinion on topics such as economics and politics. And his convincing demeanor also has all of his employees on board with his most devious opinion. His wife, Rose Sewell, who was once his exuberant counterpart, spends her days upstairs in bed fighting the symptoms of mental illness. But when Martha begins to get curious about the legitimacy of his wife’s so called mental instability, a stream of paintings hoarded by this same woman leads to the truth about what is really going on behind closed doors.
Laura Marx Fitzgerald draws her reader in with delicious prose and perfect amounts of humor sprinkled in at just the right times. She carries a special turn of phrase while still speaking through the mouth of a child. The setting is both indulgent and grounding, and the ending is so completely satisfying right down to the turn of the last page. I can definitely see this story hitting the big screen and finding rave reviews.
This middle-grade novel was written with and incredible amount of poise and sophistication. I highly recommend this story for anybody interested in leaving this era for a short while in order to eavesdrop on the high society of the 1920’s. Seeing this as a new book on the library shelf, I hope it becomes a classic.