PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Passionate, calculating, only sometimes honourable but always honest, Celestine is one of the great female characters in literature.
For all its social criticism, Mirbeau never forgets that he has to keep the reader engaged by telling a good story, and he manages that well. The episodes from Célestine's past make for a nice variety, while the events at her present-day job offer a good mix of small and larger domestic drama, too. Some criminal activity -- the young girl's rape and murder, and then a theft -- add to the tension, even as they, like so much, remain almost incidental. It's a bit much to juggle, at some points, but overall Mirbeau manages well, and The Diary of a Chambermaid is consistently a quite enjoyable read.
Of course, in the present-day the social criticism doesn't sting quite as hard or in the same way and those looking for a bawdy tale will also be rather disappointed. Mirbeau's writing holds up well, however, and there's still enough to all this to amuse and entertain contemporary readers.