New Book – The Girl from Barefoot House by Maureen Lee


Publication year: 2000

The start of this novel is terrible.

The prologue introduces us to Josie, who is in New York. Then the first chapter takes us back to 1938. Josie is three and lives with her mother Mabel, who is nineteen. He lives in a big, dilapidated house with other women, and from the first we learn that Mabel is a prostitute and a drunkard. From snippets of Mabel’s thoughts and words, we know that Mabel was well off growing up. Her parents died when she was young, but her sister Ivy raised her. Then she got pregnant, and I think the man who got her pregnant was Ivy’s husband, who abused her, and then Ivy kicked her out. It is Maude, one of the other prostitutes who looked after her until she gave birth and got her on  the game. Mabel loves Josie very much, and she swears she will quit drinking and they will find a nice house, but that doesn’t happen. Poor Josie has to sit outside their poky attic room while her mother entertains men. Josie even witnesses her mother covered in blood when a woman performs an abortion on her. Mabel is not the best mother despite her attention. As the bombs start falling over Liverpool, Josie is scared and reluctantly Mabel takes her to the pub where she gets her men, while Jose stays outside with other children. By this time Josie is six and knows what Mabel is, and she is unhappy. Then something terrible happens. Mabel is very drunk as he leaves the pub with two officers. Josie follows them, and the two men are nice to her at first. Yet, when they reach the house, they show their true colours. One of them gets on with Mabel, who has passed out drunk, and then the other one takes Josie. He is going to rape her, but thankfully, through blurry eyes Mabel sees her little girl and the man, and the shock sobers her up instantly. She pushes the other man and kicks the man holding Josie. The men are strong but she manages to get a knife and threatens them. Maude has also rushed upstairs with one of her visitors, but they reach there just when the two men flee.

It is now that Mabel decides that enough is enough. She is going back to her sister and tell her the truth. If she believes her, she will send her husband packing, and if she doesn’t, Mabel will demand her part of the house and the money her parents left. I am glad Mabel has reacted and is doing something for her daughter. I hope she gets her act together and behaves like a good mother from now on. I have my doubts, and I wonder how Ivy will react to her sister turning up and coming with such shocking revelations.


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