The Book of the Maidservant

The Book of the Maidservant

Johanna is a serving girl to Dame Margery Kempe, a renowned medieval holy woman. Dame Margery feels the suffering the Virgin Mary felt for her son but cares little for the misery she sees every day. When she announces that Johanna will accompany her on a pilgrimage to Rome, the suffering truly begins. After walking all day, Johanna must fetch water, wash clothes, and cook for the entire party of pilgrims. Then arguing breaks out between Dame Margery and the other travelers, and Johanna is caught in the middle. As the fighting escalates, Dame Margery turns her back on the whole group, including Johanna. Abandoned in a foreign land, the young maidservant must find her own way to Rome.

Inspired by the fifteenth-century text, The Book of Margery Kempe, the first autobiography in English, the novel chronicles Johanna’s journey through fear, anger, and physical hardship to ultimate redemption.

Listen to a sample and buy the audiobook, read by Susan Duerden, from Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award.

Random House Children’s Books 2009
Listening Library Unabridged Audiobook 2009


“absorbing” . . . “a lively first-person tale, packed with fascinating historical detail.”
-Kirkus Reviews

“A funny and wise book about friendship, loyalty, and love, peopled with extraordinary characters on an extraordinary journey. I love the brave, resourceful Johanna, who is more than a match for her disagreeable mistress. Who says medieval women were passive and obedient? Huzzah!”
-Karen Cushman, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Midwife’s Apprentice and Catherine, Called Birdy

“What a great way to introduce young readers to an earlier England with its harsh social conventions, smells, sounds, foods, clothing, religious controversies. Johanna, Dame Margery, and John Mouse are as real to me now as my neighbors.”
-Alan Armstrong, Newbery-Honor winning author of Whittington

“Barnhouse adeptly weaves the gritty details of medieval life into an engaging, adventure-filled story.”