I’ve been in a book club since 2017. There are 7 members so 7 books a year to be read and discussed. We have just entered our 5th year and for the first book club of 2021, we read ‘Het Weesmeisje’ from the German writer Anne Jacobs. I couldn’t find an English title, but I guess you could translate it as ‘The orphan’.
Het Weesmeisje- Summary
Here’s the summary I could read on Goodreads:
(translated from Dutch) ‘Augsburg, 1913. The young orphan Marie takes a job as kitchen maid in the impressive family home of the Melzers, the wealthy industrial family who earn their living in the textile industry. While Marie seeks her place among the hard-working servants, Katharina, the Melzers’ beautiful youngest daughter, prepares for the ball season when she will be introduced to the outside world. Her brother Paul, the heir to the family, seems to keep aloof, preferring his student life in Munich – until he meets Marie.’
Het Weesmeisje – My thoughts
‘Het weesmeisje’ is the first of three novels telling the tale of Marie (and apparantly a fourth will come out later this year).
In this first novel, we get to know Marie. She is introduced as a servant in the Melzer family, an rich, industrial family who own a fabulous villa and factory in Augsburg. In the beginning of the novel, a lot of characters are introduced as you get to know the Melzer family, but also the servants who work for this German family.
The story is set in 1913 and actually starts like a typical ‘upstairs downstairs’ novel where a new servant, starts. Marie is an 18 year old who becomes a kitchen maid, but soon gets noticed by the family, amongst whom Katherine, the youngest daughter of the Melzers who takes Marie under her wings and discovers her talent for art. And also Paul the son and heir of the Melzers who falls in love with the beautiful Marie.
The story brings us from Augsburg to Paris and is set just before the Great War. A lot of plot twists and drama, a lot of love and yearning, a lot of heartache and surprises in this book, I can tell you!
The style of writing is quite formal which fit the setting of a high class family at the beginning of the twentieth century in Germany. I liked the fact that it had several points of view. Sometimes you read the story through the eyes of Marie, sometimes through the eyes of Paul or other characters. This was never disturbing, distracting or confusing.
Not all characters are fully developed, but I guess since this is the first novel out of 4, we will get to know all characters in the coming books.
It was a quick and easy read and the story was quite predictable but I liked it anyway. The setting, the intrigue, the drama made me curious for more and I will definitely read the next part.
Het Weesmeisje – Book club questions
Below you can read some of the questions our book club discussed:
- What did you think about this book?
- Which character did you like best and why? Which characters made you feel uncomfortable?
- What do you think about the way the author built up this story?
- What about the ending?
- Do you think the title fits the story?
- Do you like the cover of the book?
- What was the part that moved you most?
Het Weesmeisje – Score
Personally I gave this book 7,5/10. The overall score was 7,36/10.
Next time we will read ‘The light years – Cazalet Chronicles #1’ from Elizabeth Jane Howard. This is my choice. I haven’t read it myself, so I have no idea what I or the book club members will think about this novel!