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The Housemaid
(Review, Summary & Spoilers)

By Freida McFadden



Book review and synopsis for The Housemaid by Freida McFadden, a psychological thriller about a young woman who takes a job as a housekeeper for a wealthy couple.

Synopsis

In The Housemaid by Freida McFadden, Millie is a young and beautiful woman who applies and is offered a job as a live-in housekeeper for a wealthy couple, Nina and Andrew Winchester.

For Millie, who has a criminal record, a it's a fantastic job -- until it's not. Things go downhill quickly as Nina Winchester exhibits increasingly bizarre and frustrating behavior. Millie is also offered a room in the house in the attic ... that only locks from the outside.

In this fun and quick-paced psychological thriller, Millie wonders what type of people she's really working for...

(The Full Plot Summary is also available, below)

Full Plot Summary

Ending & Explanations
See the Questions, Ending and Explanations
Chapter-by-Chapter Summary
See the Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of The Housemaid
Quick Plot Summary

The two-paragraph version: Millie is a young, beautiful ex-con who gets a job as a housekeeper for a wealthy couple, Nina and Andrew. Nina is temperamental and increasingly crazy, while Andrew is attractive and kind. Millie eventually sleeps with Andrew, and he kicks Nina out. We then learn that Nina hates Andrew and wanted to be free of him, which is why she hired Millie in the first place as a replacement. During their marriage, Andrew tortured Nina by locking her up in an attic room as "punishment" to correct various behaviors. He had her locked up in a psychiatric facility for 8 months as well. He used threats against her daughter to control her.

In present day, Andrew soon turns on Millie and wants to do the same (locking her up, torturing her) to her, but Millie finds some pepper spray in the attic room and attacks Andrew, locking him in the room and torturing him instead. We then learn that Millie went to jail for accidentally killing and attempted rapist and has a few other violent incidents in her past. Nina knew about it all along. She not only wanted Millie to be a replacement, she was also hoping Millie would kill Andrew. When he dies, Nina offers to take the blame for it, since it's what she wanted all along, she just didn't have it in her to kill him. But when the police detective comes to question her it turns out his daughter was Andrew's ex-fiance who was traumatized by him. The detective concludes the death was an accident. In the Epilogue, Millie interviews for a cleaning job but it becomes clear the woman really just wants Millie to kill her abusive husband. Millie takes the job.

In Part I, Millie is a beautiful, broke young woman who takes a job as a live-in housekeeper for a wealthy couple, Nina and Andrew Winchester. Millie doesn't tell them that she's been in jail for the last ten years, ever since she was 17. They put her up in a small room that was previously a closet so the door locks from the outside. Nina is temperamental and messy, and she has a daughter, Cecelia, 9. Nina often forgets or gets confused about instructions she's given or not given Millie, and Millie gets blamed for it. Nina has also gained weight over the years and everyone around her seems to agree that she's a little crazy. Her medicine cabinet is a mess of pills. Millie hears that Nina previously was admitted to a psychiatric facility after she drugged and attempted to drown Cecelia and then took pills to try to kill herself, too.

Meanwhile, Andrew is handsome, successful and understanding. Millie and Andrew slowly grow closer. When Nina and Andrew go to a fertility doctor and learn that Nina can't have any more children, Andrew is heartbroken. One night when Nina is away, Andrew and Millie sleep together. Before long, they get in a fight and Andrew kicks Nina out. Soon, Andrew fires Enzo, the landscaper. Andrew thinks the guy is an asshole, and Nina was the one who kept him around since he was the "best". Before Enzo leaves, he warns Millie that she is in danger and should leave. Shortly after, Millie gets a phone call telling her to stay away from Andrew. That night, she goes to bed, but wakes up to find that she's locked in her room.

Part II opens with Nina being glad to be free to Andrew. The narrative switches to Nina's point of view as she recounts her history with him and her plan to be free of her sadistic evil husband. Nina was once a English Ph.D. student, but she dropped out when she got pregnant and took a job as a receptionist at the company that Andrew runs. He took an interest in her and after a short courtship they were married. Three months in, he locks her in the closet in the attic for two days as punishment for letting her roots show and looking sloppy. When he lets her out, he explains that he's going to put her back in there if she misbehaves.

Nina soon wakes up groggy and sees her infant daughter Cecelia in the bathtub with the water on. Panicked, Nina realizes she's been drugged and struggled to get to Cecelia. The police show up, having been called by Andrew, and reach the conclusion that Nina drugged Cecelia to try to drown her and then took pills to kill herself. Nina is sent to a psychiatric facility for the next eight months where they convince her that her sadistic experience with Andrew is merely a delusion. Nina eventually believes it and is let out, but Andrew soon locks her in the attic bedroom again.

He continues this "punishment" every other month or so for whatever perceived misbehavior. He threatens to hurt Cecelia or have Cecelia taken away and her re-admitted to psychiatric care if she doesn't comply. He also tells all of her friends that she suffers from delusions, and he lets Nina know that if anything happens to him, his lawyer had been instructed to tell the police that she's been threatening him. This goes on for seven years. Andrew soon starts wanting another baby since Cecelia is getting older, and he knows that when Cecelia becomes more independent it will be easier to control Nina by threatening to hurt another child.

With Enzo's help to arrange passports and new identities, Nina makes an attempt to flee with Cecelia, but Andrew finds out and stops it. Finally, Nina resorts to finding someone young and beautiful to tempt Andrew into taking her place. Nina finds Millie and hires her. Nina tells herself that Millie will be okay and can leave because she doesn't have a child to use to control her like Nina does. Nina knows she needs to make Millie dislike her so that Millie will be willing to sleep with her husband, and Nina creates a situation (the Broadway show) where it can happen. Sure enough, Andrew picks Millie, and Nina is finally free. Enzo, however, reminds Nina that they just can't leave Millie with Andrew because it isn't right.

In Part III, Andrew explains to Millie that she's been locked in the room because she's being punished and he subjects her to mild torture before he lets her out. When he finally does, Millie attacks him with some pepper spray that she found in the room. She then turns the tables on Andrew and locks him inside, forcing him to perform tasks like demanding that he remove his own teeth with pliers, and refusing to let him out. (We learn that Millie went to prison for accidentally killing a guy in boarding school who was attempting to rape a friend of hers.)

It turns out that Nina was the one who hid the pepper spray in the room for her to find. Nina knew about Millie's incarceration -- as well as various other violent incidents in Millie's past. Nina wasn't just hoping Millie would replace her, she was also hoping Millie would kill Andrew.

Enzo convinces Nina that she needs to go save Millie because Millie hasn't left the house in days. When Nina arrives, she finds Millie there with Andrew's dead body. Millie is upset, knowing she'll go to jail, but Nina offers to take the blame since this was always her intention. She hoped Millie would do it because she didn't have it in her. She says she can attribute it to her mental health issues and go back to the psychiatric facility, and they'll say Millie was given the week off and wasn't even there.

When the police arrive, Nina sticks to that story. The detective questions her, then he admits that his daughter knew Andrew. She was his ex-fiance, Kathleen Connors, and he traumatized her. The detective concludes that Andrew's death was an accident. Later, at Andrew's wake, Nina meets Andrew's parents and is surprised to hear that his mother Evelyn is very tough on Andrew, even in death. She approves of what she assumes was Nina teaching Andrew a lesson.

In the Epilogue, Millie is interviewing for a different cleaning job when she notices the woman has a bruise on her. The woman says that Nina recommended her as someone who could help her. Millie understands her perfectly (the woman wants her to murder her abusive husband), and she accepts the job.

For more detail, see the full Chapter-by-Chapter Summary.

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Book Review

The Housemaid by Freida McFadden is a page-turner that I’ve seen around for a while now, but I didn’t take much of an interest in at the time. I wasn’t particularly drawn in by the cover and wasn’t familiar with the author.

But, I read her newly released psychological thriller, The Teacher, recently, and I liked it enough that it made me curious about The Housemaid which other people seemed to like.

The Housemaid is an extremely fast read, partially because the book itself is on the shorter side and also because the chapters are short and to the point. So, this would be a great book to read if you’re trying to dig yourself out of a reading slump. The plot is uncomplicated, but has enough drama and twists to keep things interesting.

The setup is standard mystery-thriller fare. Millie, our protagonist, is young, beautiful, broke and has secrets to hide. She takes a job as a housekeeper for a wealthy couple whose marriage, she soon discovers, is a little rocky. The husband is pretty hot, and the wife is pretty nuts.

You can probably make some guesses about how the story progresses and a lot of those guesses would be right — but don’t worry, The Housemaid has some surprises in store.

I felt similarly about The Housemaid as I did about The Teacher. They’re both fairly generic genre novels, but they both get the job done and scratch that itch if that’s what you’re looking for. Of the two, The Housemaid is the quicker read. They’re both probably somewhat forgettable, but I think The Housemaid has a more memorable ending, in my opinion anyway. I’d say it’s probably the one I’d recommend to people, but if you like these types of books, you could probably read both.

I should mention that I loved the Epilogue for the Housemaid. I’m obviously not going to say more and ruin it for everyone else, but yeah, it brought a smile to my face.

Read it or Skip it?

So, should you read it? I mean, it goes by so quickly, I’d say why not? The Housemaid is a solid, very quick genre novel with a couple of fun twists. It flew by for me.

See The Housemaid on Amazon.

The Housemaid Audiobook

Narrator: Lauryn Allman
Length: 9 hours 41 minutes

Hear a sample of The Housemaid audiobook on Libro.fm.

Ending & Explanations

See the Questions, Ending & Explanations for The Housemaid

Book Excerpt

Read the first pages of The Housemaid



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