Jude & Bliss
Author: Mal Foster
A Victorian Tragedy
Publication Date: 12 November 2020
Publisher: Publish Nation
In the Victorian era, for many young women, going into domestic service was a significant source of employment where they found suitable work but with extended hours for a reasonable salary, receiving free accommodation as well as enjoying the perks and prestige of working for the aristocracy or other members of the upper or middle-classes.
As a matter of course, employers had a moral obligation, but one without a legal requirement to ensure their servants were kept clean, healthy and well-nourished. However, for one poor girl, that, unfortunately, was not the case.
In 1896, Jude Rogers, a wide-eyed but vulnerable sixteen-year-old from Woking, Surrey, secures a position as a domestic servant at a large terraced house in Half Moon Street, near London’s Piccadilly. Following a brief settling-in period, she quickly realises everything is not quite as it seems.
As time moves ruthlessly forward, what happens next is almost beyond comprehension. Jude finds herself in the most impossible of situations and finally succumbs to the pure evil dealt out by her employer.
This story is NOT for the faint-hearted!
Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Jude-Bliss-Mal-Foster/9798550129265
It was the day of Jude’s burial. A horse-drawn carriage from the funeral stables in the village was due outside our house with her coffin at ten o’clock. My Auntie Mabel and Uncle Charlie had arrived with my cousin Ronald from London. Everyone was silent, and I was becoming embarrassed because Dad was refusing to come to the cemetery.
‘I’m not going down there to watch them put my beautiful daughter in the ground,’ he kept saying.
My concerns for him had been increasing as each day passed. He was hardly talking, just hiding in his bedroom, sleeping by day, and going downstairs at night. He was living on a diet of bread and dripping and pots of tea. The money for whiskey had run out, and he was becoming even more depressed. He had lost so much weight in just a few weeks; he could hardly bear to look at himself in the mirror.
A manager from the railway company had been to visit, but Dad just shouted at him and told the poor man to bugger off. Mrs Skilton from next door had also been around to check on Dad, but he wouldn’t listen to her advice, even though she used to be a nurse. In turn, this wasn’t helping me. I knew I had to be strong. I had to be strong for Jude to make sure she reached her final resting place without any hiccups.
As it approached ten o’clock, our friends from the village gathered outside in anticipation of the arrival of the hearse. When it arrived, I could see the undertakers had laid Jude in a shiny polished coffin. ‘English elm,’ the senior undertaker said. The hearse was being pulled by two tall black horses in all their splendour, adorned with pure white feathered plumes.
‘White plumes, not black?’ I mumbled.
‘White plumes because your sister is a virgin child,’ said Auntie Mabel.
As we were all about to leave, Dad emerged, shaven and wearing his favourite tweed suit and a black necktie. The suit looked like it had grown far too big for him. Cousin Ronald and I grabbed his arms and supported him down to the cemetery.
The small procession, led by the hearse, took about forty-five minutes to walk until we got to an open plot on the south side of Cemetery Pales. It was a few feet away from a fresh grave which looked like it had only recently been filled. Two gravediggers were standing and smoking under a nearby fir tree, and I could see Sergeant Greenaway arriving behind us on his new bicycle. It was starting to rain a little, and a young boy was holding up an umbrella for the pastor.
‘Why is there no service in the chapel?’ asked Auntie Mabel.
‘I don’t know; it was never spoken about,’ I replied.
‘She was a good Christian though, young Jude, wasn’t she?’
‘Yes, of course, she was.’
‘Then she should have had a proper ceremony. Full service with hymns and prayers and a eulogy.’
Just then, Sergeant Greenaway intervened.
‘Don’t be too harsh on the lad. Young Harry here has done his best under difficult circumstances, and remember, he’s had to care for his father too. As you can see, Isaac has taken the death of his daughter extremely hard, and it’s made him quite ill.’
At the graveside, the pastor muttered a few words, and not being a religious sort; they were words I didn’t understand.
Mal Foster was born in 1956 in Farnham, Surrey and grew up in nearby Camberley. He was educated at secondary modern level but left school at just fifteen years old to help support his single mother and younger brother. It was around this time that he began writing, and indeed, his first poems were published soon after.
In 2007 his most widely read poem The Wedding was published in the Australian Secondary Schools anthology Poetry Unlocked‘ a book that formed part of its English Literature exam curriculum. The irony of its inclusion has always amused Mal considering he left school before gaining any formal qualifications himself.
A former local journalist, his first novel The Asylum Soul, a historical tale of incarceration was published in 2015. A second book, Fly Back and Purify, a paranormal drama appeared in 2017. Described as an explosive conspiracy thriller, An Invisible Nemesis was published at the beginning of May 2019.
In November 2020, his fourth novel, Jude & Bliss, was published and marked a return to historical fiction for Mal. “This book is close to my heart, it’s the one, I think, which will define the course of my future writing,” he told one observer.
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