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Reader’s Den

Reader's Den: Week 2 of "The Servants"


By now we are well into The Servants by M.M. Smith. Our protagonist, Mark, is 11 years old and unhappy. Having just relocated to Brighton from London, he has no friends and spends the rainy, chilly days skateboarding by himself. Full of resentment against his new stepfather, David, and confused by his mother's illness, he meets an old lady who unlocks for him a bygone era in her basement flat in the 200-year-old house David owns.

From the cover design by James L. Iacobelli, to the references in the book, keys are an important motif in the story. Mark usually lets himself into David's house, which does not feel like home to him, with his own set of keys. The old lady uses her keys to let herself into the tiny apartment which is her home. The large key opens the door to the secret rooms of the servant's quarters:

"She fitted the key into its lock and turned it with an apparent effort. It made a loud, hollow sound, like a single horse's hoof landing on the road. She turned the knob and pushed, and the door opened away from her, slowly receding, without any sound at all" (p. 37).

Why are keys important in the story? What might they symbolize? Please share any insights you may have.

Although Mark is the narrator, the story opens with the old lady. Why is that? What is significant about the old lady's thoughts on the body and on aging?

A last question (or two) until we meet again — do you like or dislike Mark? What is your perception of David so far?


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Great read. Found the book

Great read. Found the book chock-full of metaphors -- the shore I thought represented a beginning and an end. And the key to me was a symbol of self-discovery. In the end, Mark is disabused of his loathing of David -- when he finds how deeply he loves his Mark's mom.

Great read

Yes, it is indeed a great read. What are some metaphors that stand out in your mind? How do these enhance the story? Thanks for sharing your insights!

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