A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama
by Laura Amy Schlitz
2006 by Candlewick
Hardcover, 400 pages
0763629308 (isbn13: 9780763629304)
rating: 4 of 5 stars
"On the morning of the best day of her life, Maud Flynn was locked in the outhouse, singing 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic.'"
Maud Mary Flynn has lived at the Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans since her mother died and a family adopted her brother and sister but did not want her. The day that Hyancinth Hawthorne and her sister Judith arrive, eleven-year-old Maud can't believe they choose to adopt her. Maud is given new clothes, good food, and books. She lives in an enormous house with the two sisters, their other sister Victoria, and the housekeeper, mute and deaf Muffet. After some time, Maud realizes that she will have to contribute to the "family business," which means questionable and somewhat eerie participation on her part. Still, to refuse means to be sent back to Barbary Asylum. Finally, Maud must make a decision about who she is and what she is willing to endure for the sake of feeling loved.
This book was a pretty quick read for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Maud is a sometimes infuriating and sometimes sympathetic character, but by the end of the book you feel as though she's making her own decisions, at least. The three "aunts" Hawthorne are well developed, to the point that I have trouble not calling a person in my daily life "Hyacinth." Muffet is a character deprived of mention on the jacket flap, which made discovering her all the more enjoyable. She and Maud connect, two creatures thrown together in that great dark house.
Laura Amy Schlitz writes in a way that keeps Maud's innocence but does not condescend to Maud (or her readers) for being young. There are sophisticated themes and emotional interactions, but overall Schlitz keeps the story both appropriate and real (Maud is locked in the outhouse for speaking back to a teacher.)
I added this book to my TBR pile because of a Jen Robinson recommendation, and that I can't wait to get it into the hands of my ten-year-old niece. It would make a great book for any girl (mostly girls), ages 9 to 13.