Noticing the huge number of positive reviews for Freida McFadden’s The Housemaid, I actually bought the book rather than searching for it in the library. This, I thought, must be an example of how this writing lark is really done!
After finishing the book, I wished I’d found it in the library.
There definitely were elements I learnt from. The twist is huge. Sure, I suspected that Andrew was really the villain – it didn’t make sense that there wasn’t a whole different layer to his perfect personality. But I didn’t suspect the game Nina was playing. And after this initial twist, they just kept coming.
The opening pages are clever. Set three months later, we’re told of a horrendous event, but we don’t know what, or how, or by who. We are supposed to believe that Millie is the perpetrator, especially as we quickly learn that she has been in prison, but it could also viably be Nina.
And the final pages are clever. It adds another layer to the plot, and it opens the story up perfectly to a sequel (which is already out there).
But I found pages 4 to 190 difficult to read, and this is far too many pages. Another disclaimer – this is just my personal, subjective viewpoint. This section of the book mainly comprised scene after scene of Nina being incredibly annoying, and Millie just accepting it. It was dull and irritating to read. I longed to skip past it all to get to the twist that just had to happen.
And then when we did get to the twist, the back story was very brief. It felt like it was merely an explanation for all the dull chapters we’d had to read. I didn’t feel any connection to Nina. None of it felt true.
When Andrew was revealed to be the villain, we didn’t really get to see him in action. He trapped Millie in the room and then – blink and you’ll miss it – he was trapped in the room himself. It didn’t need a great deal of cunning to switch the tables. He quickly became the victim, and he didn’t fight back. Within a handful of pages he was dead. He felt like a limp villain.
We were posed a challenging moral question: did we feel Millie’s actions were reasonable and proportionate? After all, the Andrew’s offences were horrific, but so were hers. What would you have done in this circumstance?
In summary, The Housemaid used some clever approaches that I will learn from. Ultimately, I only enjoyed about 10% of the book, and so primarily I’ll learn from the reasons for this.