Working below stairs in 1920s London, sixteen-year-old Margaret’s mind turns to finding a man. But it’s hard to look beguiling when you’re elbow deep in dishwater…
From the grand houses of Brighton to imposing London mansions, life as a kitchen maid could be exhausting and demoralizing. It’s not just being at the beck and call of the people upstairs when even the children of the family can treat you like dirt, but having to deal with temperamental cooks, starchy butlers, and chauffeurs with a roving eye. Marriage is the only escape, but with one evening off a week Margaret has no time to lose.
Between Perce the bus conductor (who brings his mother on dates) and Mr. Hailsham the fishmonger (who looks – and smells – a bit like his wares), her initial prospects are hardly the stuff of dreams. But then she meets Albert; a butcher boy-turned-milkman. Could he be the perfect husband? And can she make the perfect wife when, as she soon discovers, years spent serving others don’t prepare you for managing your own life? Soon Margaret begins to wonder – how can someone like her ever improve their station?
Told with her trademark wit and warmth, Climbing the Stairs is a unique, sharp-eyed tale of a time when the idea of masters and servants began to lose its sway, and of a remarkable woman who grasped the opportunities of this brave new world with both hands.