Jill is the story of an unconventional heroine – a gentlewoman who disguises herself as a maid and runs away to London in search of adventure after her mother dies and her father is pursued by a Victorian gold-digger. Once in London she uses her position as lady's maid to become close to her mistress. Her life above and below stairs is portrayed with irreverent wit in thisJill is the story of an unconventional heroine – a gentlewoman who disguises herself as a maid and runs away to London in search of adventure after her mother dies and her father is pursued by a Victorian gold-digger. Once in London she uses her position as lady's maid to become close to her mistress. Her life above and below stairs is portrayed with irreverent wit in this fast-paced story, but at the centre of the novel is Jill's unfolding love for the woman she works for. On the surface a feminist manifesto, Jill is a poignant story of same-sex desire and unrequited love. A new introduction tells the autobiographical story on which the novel is based -the author's own passionate attachment to a woman she called her wife, but who she couldn't have. "...
|Number of Pages||:||326 Pages|
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Victorian author Amy Dillwyn came from a remarkable family. Her father, Lewis Llewelyn Dillwyn, was an industrialist and a member of parliament. Her uncle, John Dillwyn-Llewelyn, was an early proponent of photography. Her grandfather, Sir Henry Thomas de la Beche, was a geologist. And she was an even more remarkable woman.After the death of her brother and father she took over her father’s business on the brink of bankrupcy, gave up the family home to run that business and – as a hands-on manager – turned it right around and became a prominent figure in her local community.I’m sorry that she isn’t better known, but I’m pleased that Honno has been bringing her novels back into print.Jill, published in 1884, was the fourth of Amy Dillwyn’s six novels. Its a coming of age story, it clearly has elements that are autobiographical, and it’s a novel without a hero that’s much more fun than that much better novel with the same sobriquet.The credit for that must go to Jill, who tells her own story. She’s a wonderful character; an utterly believable, strong-minded, independent woman, who is willing to do whatever she has to do to get where she wants to go. She was far from perfect – she could be manipulative, she could be selfish, she could be horribly insensitive to the feelings of others – but I couldn’t help liking her and wanting the best for her.I loved her voice and I was always intrigued to see what she would do, what would happen to her next.Jill was the much loved daughter of a prosperous squire, but her life changed when her mother died and when a gold-digger succeeding in luring her father to the altar. She hated her step-mother’s new regime, especially when she realised she wouldn’t be allowed to come out until her two step-sisters had been found husbands. That was why she decided to run away and to earn her own living in London.The scheme that Jill thought up to get away undetected and unfollowed was very clever. And her plan for the future was sensible: she would draw on her education to work as a day governess while she learned the things she needed to become a travelling-maid.She succeeded, and she had a very eventful time, but, because her references were false, things fell apart. She became a maid-cum-kennel maid – a job that nobody else wanted – and her charges made that eventful too. An accident sent her to hospital, her friendship with the head sister makes her start to think about a new direction in life, but then she learns that her father has died and she has inherited the family estate.The story ends with Jill returning home, to take on the role of a lady squire.It’s a wonderful story, a great entertainment that makes some very firm points about the divisions of sexes and classes in Victorian Britain. It has things to say about poverty, about housing, about healthcare. And most of all it speaks about just what women can do!The plotting is very clever, there are lots of diverse details, and Jill’s telling is laced with wit, humour and many, many emotions that she goes through over the courses of her adventures.There were coincidences, there were places where the story would have been tightened-up a little, but the positive things about this book more than outweighed the few negatives.The story of Jill’s relationship with Kitty Merryn underpins everything. They meet on holiday with their families and become friends; Jill is disappointed when Kitty doesn’t recognise her on the train to London, and when Kitty drops her purse she picks it up and keep it; Jill become Kitty’s travelling maid, she watches her suitors and wonders about Kitty’s feelings, and they escape from bandits together; the story ends with Jill wondering about what life will hold for Kitty, who she knows has married.The story of unrequited love for another woman echoes Amy Dillwyn’s life; it’s well done, and it balances the more eventful side of the story. And I must and that it’s more subtly done than the cover image might suggest. Unless I blinked that didn’t happen; nothing like it happened.But plenty did happen, and it made a great story!
Straying for once out of my comfort zone, I came across this on a library shelf and, having once worked on the Hendrefoelan campus in Swansea and attended adult education courses at the house which Amy Dillwyn donated to the university, I was intrigued. The novel is presented by its publisher as primarily a feminist work, and while this is clearly at its heart, it is just as much a vehicle for observations on life, class and social issues in the nineteenth century. From the rubric on the back of the book I was rather expecting a more in-depth exploration of the heroine's sexual and emotional feelings, but I am given to understand that Queen Victoria would not even acknowledge the possibility of such things among her own sex, and given the moral outlook professed by society at that time, this was, with hindsight, rather unlikely. Desire is hinted at, but never quite allowed to take centre stage.Nevertheless the story unfolds in a series of quite riveting episodes, albeit in some cases stretching credulity to the limit, and Jill herself is engaging both as character and narrator.It would be interesting to see how this novel would have played out if written with the freedom of expression that writers enjoy today.
I loved this. It's narrated by Jill, a confident, practical and unsentimental (although not as cold-hearted as she would have you believe) young woman who introduces herself to the reader by saying she believes women can be just as adventurous as men. Stifled by life at home with her governess, Jill throws off the advantages of her wealthy upbringing and goes to London in search of work.It was highly refreshing to read a nineteenth century novel from the point of view of a young woman getting on with what she wants to do in life, which doesn't include marriage. At its heart a sweet and slightly sad story of unrequited love, there is plenty of adventure along the way. Yes, there are some unbelievable coincidences, but there's also an array of humorously quirky minor characters that make the book a joy to read.
This was very enjoyable. It wasn't as queer as I was hoping. The main character did seem a little obsessed with her mistress, but not more so than many Victorian novels. It was sad that they only had one real scene together but that was really great. It was a very interesting book looking at the restraints on women. But there was also a bit of negative classism in this book. Still I'm really glad that I came across this at the library and definitely want to read more books by this author.