3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Although Betsy and Catherine were from different social classes in 18th-century London, England, they grew up as best friends. Betsy’s parents worked for Catherine’s parents, and Betsy eventually worked as Catherine’s lady’s maid. Catherine was always adventurous and willful, and part of Betsy’s job involved trying to keep her reined in.
Catherine, being bored because her husband was abroad, decided to dress up as a poor person and visit the impoverished area of town to observe how the destitute population lived. Betsy tried to talk her out of it but failed. Knowing that Catherine would go without her, Betsy accompanied her. However, events took a terrible turn. Because it appeared that Catherine was trying to steal some material, they were beaten and ultimately arrested. An unscrupulous judge sentenced them to be imprisoned and then sent to Australia. Will they be capable of surviving the hardships of their imprisonment, their journey, and their servitude in Australia? Will Catherine’s husband be able to locate and rescue them?
Betsy and Catherine: An Uncommon Friendship by Helen Gailey is a 227-page novel, with a gripping storyline, that is listed as historical fiction. The descriptive prose is easy to understand. It is written as a combination of Betsy’s first-person point of view and Catherine’s journal. This makes it easy to understand their thoughts and actions and immerse ourselves in their lives, both before and after the arrests.
Superb character development represents my favorite part of the story. Catherine was an entitled aristocrat who suddenly lost her privileged lifestyle and was demoted to an impoverished convict. She anguished about placing Betsy in this situation. We get to watch her evolve and change throughout the story. However, Betsy was my favorite character. She was courageous, optimistic, faithful, and loving. She continued to look after and defend Catherine. Their friendship demonstrates what love should be like.
The author grew up in Australia and had an interest in the history of Australia and England. She clearly researched the past for this novel. I did not know about the history of England’s convicts being transported to Australia. I also didn’t realize how badly the impoverished people and the convicts were mistreated in those days. Something as minor as a mother stealing life-sustaining food or clothing for her starving and freezing children could cause her to be sentenced to a life of imprisonment or shipped to Australia. The women sometimes were separated from their families; at other times, the children were sent with her. It definitely was an eyeopener.
However, not everything was satisfactory. There were several problems observed while reading. First, the section where Betsy was hired as Catherine’s lady’s maid was first told on page 16 and then repeated on page 21. As this was several paragraphs long, it stood out. There were also quite a few punctuation and grammatical errors, with the majority being punctuation. Several times, there were two periods at the end of sentences. Missing commas between dialogue tags and the dialogue happened on many occasions. In addition, vocatives in conversations frequently did not have commas. An example is, “The baron spoke directly to me when he said ‘We can’t help but notice Betsy that you and Catherine have formed a friendship.’” This should be written as “The baron spoke directly to me when he said, ‘We can’t help but notice, Betsy, that you and Catherine have formed a friendship.’” This was my least favorite part of the book.
This fascinating and informative novel achieves a rating of three out of four stars. One star is deducted due to the aforementioned issues. I think it is too intriguing to receive a two-star rating. I heartily recommend it for readers who enjoy historical fiction. There were occasional mild profanities and some violence encountered in the story. Therefore, it is unsuitable for young children. Sensitive readers need to consider it as well.
Betsy and Catherine : An Uncommon Friendship
View: on Bookshelves | on Barnes and Noble