The House Girl by Conklin
My review is based on the soft back edition of this book which I received free from the publisher as an "Advance Readers Edition" in exchange for the promise that I would write a review.
Unlike many books where it takes several chapters before you are drawn into the story, I was immediately captivated by this book. The primary message in the book for me was the comparison between the hopes and dreams of two girls. One was a modern day smart young white female lawyer raised by a single father who thought she knew who she was and what she wanted but found that true satisfaction laid elsewhere. The other girl was a young gifted black girl raised as a "thing" on a Virginia plantation who had never been beyond the gates of the Virginia plantation but had an inner desire to be "free" even while having no concept of what being free would actually consist of. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, these two women had much in common.
There were a multitude of the examples of how horribly the slaves were treated during those days – I thank God that this era of slavery is behind us. There were also hints at the various ways people of today are actually enslaved by controlling things and people. In addition, the novel explored the pros and cons of the question of whether we Americans in 2012 still owe the black people "back pay" for the contributions made by their forefathers in building this great country we all live in.
The two primary characters were very well developed and I could relate to both of them. Unfortunately, I never was able to dive into the mind of some members of the supporting cast. For instance, it would have been interesting to know what really drove the plantation owner. I concluded that a series of failures had made him a bitter and brutal person and I think his reactions were sadly true to life when our dreams fall apart, but I wished I had been able to explore some of his mental processes.
The book was an easy read with a somewhat simple plot but hidden within the tapestry of the plot are several diverse threads that provide insights into the different ways that we humans are wired by God to live and think.
Rated of 5
by Martha D. (Poway, CA)
House Girl by Tara Conklin
I was so excited to get an advanced reader copy of this book. I was looking forward to it and was not disappointed at all. I was caught up in the story from the very beginning. I know many people are not fans of epistolary stories but I really do enjoy them. The main characters are completely engaging and while the storyline was often hard to read and a reminder of just how awful parts of our history are, it was still a very worthwhile read and I highly recommend this book.
Rated of 5
by Sue H. (Wooster, OH)
A memorable journey
Tara Conklin invites readers on a memorable journey in her novel The House Girl. She creates characters who inspire affection and interest and her language use adds to the reader's continuing desire to know more. Set in 21st century New York City and 1850s Virginia, Conklin moves action between the two seamlessly. Readers become intimate parts of the lives of both Lina, a young NY attorney embarking on a landmark lawsuit, and Josephine, the young black house girl possessed of an artistic talent that she uses as an outlet for her long-buried emotions. As a high school English teacher, this book appeals both to the adult reader in me and to the teacher of adolescents who will equally enjoy this look back in time.
Rated of 5
by John W. (Saint Louis, MO)
Tale of Two Women
The House Girl tells two stories, one about Josephine, a slave on the Bell plantation in Virginia in 1852 and the second about Lina, a lawyer with a major law firm in NYC that has been asked to assist a client with a historical reparations claim for descendants of slaves. At the same time, another legal issue emerges concerning a collection of paintings that have been attributed to Luanne Bell for years – an art critic comes forward to announce that the artist was Josephine, not her master. Lina searches for the truth about Josephine, trying to track down her descendants to see if they will be the plaintiffs in the reparations case.
The House Girl is about finding yourself and finding your history. It's about defining yourself on your own terms and not by how others. Most importantly is about love, regret and the need for justice. I thought this book was excellent debut novel, and I would definitely read another book by Conklin.
Rated of 5
by Sue J. (Wauwatosa, WI)
The House Girl weaves the stories of Josephine, a young house slave in the 1850's and Lina, a hard working corporate lawyer. Lina is assigned to a case that would compensate African American descendants for the pain and suffering caused by slavery. Lina finds a descendant of a slave to be the plaintiff through her artist father. She discovers a collection of paintings by LuAnne Bell that may have actually been painted by her slave, Josephine. In the search for a descendant of Josephine, Lina learns about herself and questions her choices in life. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction - I loved it!
Rated of 5
by Joan W. (Orion, MI)
The House Girl
I was very excited to receive a copy of The House Girl. I love reading these types of stories. The going back and forth of two eras was handled very well. I felt so sorry for Josephine, the slave girl, and was anxious to find out what happened to her. Lina, a smart corporate lawyer, in her mission of the reparations case and the art world was intricately woven all together and I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I would certainly recommend this book and look forward to the next one by this author.
Rated of 5
by Kathryn K. (Oceanside, CA)
Loved The House Girl!
The novel, The House Child by Tara Conklin, blends two compelling stories about a house slave and a young attorney in the early stages of her career: one from the nineteenth century, the other from the twenty-first. Lest you think that this makes it a predictable tale – it's not! The story deals with issues of a slave from a different angle, as the author weaves the lives of these two women together.
The plot is fresh and interesting with some twists I didn't see coming. It is well written. The author manages to keep the "voice" of her characters distinctive throughout the novel. There was none of the guessing about whom a passage was about. This frustration seems a more common reality in fiction today. The author did a good job in the development of the characters and I wanted to know how it worked out -- It was an, okay, how about just a little more!
The book grabbed me before I finished the first chapter and held me captive until I finished the book! I think it would be a great choice for a book discussion group. It has the possibility of expanding one's view of the world today. I really enjoyed The House Child. I'll be watching for Ms Conklin's next tome.
British Parliament asks Amazon to clarify why it pays $9 million in income tax on $23 billion of UK sales.(May 20 2013) Amazon will be called back to give further evidence to members of the British Parliament "to clarify how its activities in the U.K. justify its low corporate...