The Secret Countess is a gorgeous novel by Eva Ibbotson that has been a long time favorite of mine since I was a tween. Anna Granzinsky is an eighteen-year-old Russian Countess, who had to run away to England. Losing her riches, Anna takes up employment in a fine stately home, as the maid. Hiding who she truly is, Anna dedicates herself to her work. She becomes good friends with the other staff, including Proom the butler, and Mrs. Park the cook. But falling in love is not as easy for Anna, especially when the Earl of Westerholme comes home.
Anna is the perfect example of what ‚Äògood girls‚Äô were thought to be in 1917. She is beautiful inside and out, selfless and compassionate, to everyone from her friends, to the flowers. She is also a hard worker, and head strong, she often helps other characters to be kinder, or braver. Anna is an example to her friends, she tries to see’s the best in everyone. Anna is a good role model to young girls as she shows the importance of being kind to everyone, regardless of their ability, or status.
But, Anna is not the only girl in the story; The Honourable Olive is another fantastic character. Olive ‚ÄúOllie‚Äù Byrne, is an incredible eight-year-old girl, who happens to have a small disability, big round glasses, and a limp. Yet, these are not her defining characteristics. Ollie is brave, often helping the older characters to face their fears. Her disability importantly never holds her back; she horse rides and plays with the boys. When people judge her for her disability, she is forgiving and she doesn’t let it upset her.
Ollie is my favorite character and represents a girl with determination. She shows that girls can be strong, and that they should never be underestimated, especially if based on their appearance. While being good is important, she shows that is essential to be true to yourself. She is an excellent example of what girls can be: brave, honest, kind, and capable of greatness.
The Secret Countess has two fantastic representations of girls, but it also shows how wonderful girl friendships are. Ollie and Anna take care of each other when times are hard, but also teach one another to be strong and thoughtful.
I have re-read The Secret Countess several times over the years, and I would describe it as the perfect book to pick up on a rainy Sunday. It’s whimsical, romantic, and yet has wonderful representations of what it means to be a girl, and a friend both in 1917, and today.
Girl Museum Inc.