Good morning! I hope you are having a great day. I am so so behind on reviews (I read this book in August!!) but I’m trying very hard to catch up. Today’s review is of one of my most anticipated releases for 2019, The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee. This was a spectacular historical fiction novel that touches on a lot of important topics from the 1800’s of the Southern US.
Book: The Downstairs Girl
Author: Stacey Lee
Summary: By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light. With prose that is witty, insightful, and at times heartbreaking, Stacey Lee masterfully crafts an extraordinary social drama set in the New South.
*Jo Kuan. I loved Jo for her wit, for her outspoken attitude, and because of her love for her friends and family. By day, she is a maid for a cruel and rich society belle, and by night she writes an unconventional column that tackles issues of race and gender equality. Her form of feminism, her way of challenging society’s ideals, was amazing, and I loved how she spoke for all women, and all races, rather than just a certain group of women, like the suffragist group in this story did. Also, she and Nathan were funny and cute.
*Reconstruction Era Georgia. I love love love love love historical fiction and I love historical fiction that is set in the Victorian Era, or the 1800s the most. This is one of the rare times that I’ve read a book set in this time period in the good old American South. And I loved it. The rising tensions, the segregation/racial issues, and the general change that was happening in the South during that time period is really interesting, and reading about a strong female character trying to change society’s mindset and trying to survive the growing tensions is something that I am absolutely here for. I think all the issues were handled beautifully in this book.
*Friends and family. The support of Jo’s friends and family made the story so whole. Noemi was so much fun, and I loved how she was just as outspoken and strong as Jo. She was an amazing friend, and always managed to make me smile. Old Gin was an interesting character, and I loved his small bits of advice, and the special bond that he had with Jo. I also loved how he always put Jo first, and Jo also did the same. Nathan was adorable (I don’t know why, I just thought he was super cute??) and the slow tentative relationship that he and Jo formed was so so sweet. Even Caroline, who was beyond rude and cruel, had her moments, and I really hoped that she and Jo could eventually become friends. Honestly, all the side characters in the book were so interesting and amazing.
*Horses. I also liked the small horses aspect in the story, and that ending with the race was the best.
*Nothing. I loved this book from beginning to end.
In the end, I really loved this, I would recommend it, and I hope you enjoy it if you read it! The main character was strong and independent, the side characters were diverse and amazing, and the plot tackled many important issues that were relevant in Jo’s time, and some that are still relevant today. I also loved the family and friendship dynamic between the characters, and it made the story more whole and sweet.
One sentence summary: An interesting historical fiction novel with amazing characters and diverse topics.
Overall, 5 stars!!
That’s it for this review! Have you read The Downstairs Girl? What did you think? Did you find Nathan weirdly adorable as well? Have you read any amazing historical fiction novels this year? What was one of your most anticipated books for 2019? Chat with me in the comments!