Caricatured by Charles Dickens in Little Dorrit as the cantankerous maid of Mr. and Mrs. Meagles, “Tattycoram” tells her own life story in this utterly compelling metafiction by the celebrated author of Isobel Gunn. Throughout her career, Audrey Thomas has repeatedly challenged her readers to follow her into new territory. In Tattycoram, she does it again, taking readers into the distant fictional world of Charles Dickens’s England, where, in an unusual twist, Dickens interacts with his own characters, allowing Thomas to raise questions about the intersection of life and art. In Thomas’s hands, Harriet Coram gains both a poignant personal history and a quiet dignity. Abandoned as a baby at the London Foundling Hospital and cared for by a kindly foster mother until the age of five, the young Hattie attracts the attention of the Victorian novelist Charles Dickens, who hires her as the family housemaid. In the Dickens household, Charles’s sister Miss Georgina takes an instant dislike to Hattie’s pretty looks and trains her caged raven to tease her with the mocking nickname of Tattycoram. Although Hattie escapes from Dickens and his family to care for her dying foster mother in the country, she is later swept back under the famous author’s sphere of observation as a teacher in his newly founded school for released female convicts. There she befriends Elizabeth Avis, who also appears as another minor character from Little Dorrit. In typical Dickensian fashion, Hattie meets not one, but two, long-lost brothers and falls in love with the one who conveniently turns out not to be her “real” brother. But first, she must confront her benefactor about his shameless misrepresentation of her and Elizabeth’s characters in his latest novel.
About Audrey Thomas
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Published November 1, 2010
by Goose Lane Editions.
History, Literature & Fiction.