Canada’s West Coast history comes alive in this classic, coming-of-age story.
Fifteen-year-old Elsie stumbles onto the scene at her new job—serving the affluent Dunsmuir family in Craigdarroch Castle alongside her widowed mother. Elsie feels her future has never been so bleak. Feeling trapped in her new life, she uncovers a hidden talent for acting that catapults her to the forefront of the family’s parties. But when she discovers an audience of one with a Chinese male servant, it threatens any plans she has to escape the castle. Through the Gate is Kay Jordan’s debut novel.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through the author for review purposes. A positive review was not required.
Kay Jordan’s debut follows the journey of a young, imaginative girl as she dreams of becoming an actress and navigates life as a servant alongside her mother.
Freedom and pursuing one’s dreams take center stage in this narrative, through Elsie’s own pursuit of a life beyond the one she knows. The historical aspect was intriguing, as Elsie started out selling newspapers while disguised as a boy and held on to her strong will and her desire for something better as her situation changed. She had a goal, and she went after it with determination and sacrifice in a time when such efforts didn’t always make sense to society.
With this cast, however, I found it hard not to have someone to truly root for, someone who cared about others without trying to manipulate or profit from them, besides Tai. I think Tai was the kindest of them, and I was thrilled to see Elsie value him, but that turned a direction that made it seem less honest and more focused on looks and feelings and having an audience. The friends Elsie made at the castle who were of higher status than herself also proved unreliable, but the same could be said of her and the way she treated her mother. There was a lack of truly seeing and meeting the needs of others in most of these characters, but in retrospect it makes sense with the younger characters’ upbringing and the things they picked up on or were taught over the course of their childhoods.
Elsie pursued her goals without much thought for others, but Tai’s influence helped effect some changes in this regard, and I hope the next book will build on that character growth. She’s young yet, and has a lot to learn, which means a journey readers can anticipate and perhaps learn from, as they join Elsie on her adventures. She has such a fearless personality and a tendency to bring excitement and action where she goes. And the author made the castle setting realistic to the time period, inviting readers to explore alongside the main character. For those who enjoy historical fiction and independent young characters, this might be just your sort of adventure.