My Story: Victorian Workhouse by Pamela Oldfield

My Story: Victorian Workhouse” is set in Victorian times, and is written in the form of a diary, kept by fifteen-year-old Edith Lorrimer, who lives with her mother and cousin. Edith is used to comfort and kindness, so what she sees in her visits to the local workhouse take her breath away.

Edith’s mother is a member of the Board of Guardians at the workhouse. She decides to show Edith what her job is like, and so one day she takes her to the workhouse.

Edith is horrified by the way the inmates are treated: they are given pitiful rations, are treated in cruel ways, and are forced to do exhausting jobs all day long. She listens to Board meetings, and quickly realises that most of the members are strict, unkind and greedy. Blankets and food that are supposed to be for the inmates are mysteriously vanishing, probably being sold for money, and Edith and her mother have a good idea of who is behind it.

People live in the workhouse when they are too poor to afford shelter or food for themselves or their children. Young mothers, children and the crippled elderly all beg the Board for “indoor relief” in desperation. Edith is sickened by the ways of the Board, and pities the inmates, but it isn’t until she meets Rosie that she really understands what life in the workhouse is like.

Rosie Chubb is a girl of Edith’s age. She is defiant and rude, and is often punished by the Board in despicable ways. Edith befriends Rosie, and is determined to learn her “life story.” Bit by bit, she begins to learn about Rosie’s life, and records the details in her diary, as well as the everyday happenings of her own life. Edith’s family are concerned about Rosie’s safety in the workhouse. Will Rosie ever be set free from her prison? Can Edith help her new friend?

I found “My Story: Victorian Workhouse” an enlightening read. The book cleverly stirs facts about life in Victorian times throughout the story in a light way. I felt as though I was seeing Victorian England through Edith’s eyes, and experiencing the horror of the workhouse myself. However, I did find the ending a little abrupt. Apart from that, it is a very good read. I rate it 8 out of 10, and would recommend it to everyone; from boys to girls, from children to adults!

By Tierney, age 13.

1 Response so far

  1. 1

    Bianca said,

    very informative and loved it!:)

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