Art Redeems the Soul
Josephine Bell is the catalyst that launches an inquiry into the historical past, to unearth the mystery of what happened to the artist who fashioned the artwork that survived time. Her story is not unlike others in her class and station, in the late 1800's. A slave bound to her Master's wife, as a house girl confined to their land and their rules. A life that would have gone unnoticed until an unsuspecting lawyer (Lina) in the 21st century (early 2000's) is giving the task to unearth data on a case that would give back redemption to those who have all but been erased by modern history. This isn't just a story that evokes the tragedy of those enslaved in the South, but rather a silver lining of Hope… that their lives took on greater meaning and purpose when their lives started to intersect with others. It's through this intersection where the ripples of small kindnesses and hours of bravery, began to change the lives of others. I found that inside the secondary characters held within the House Girl, the simplest of truths to step forward. Peace with Self. Strength in Resolve. Determined Self Reliance. And the hope of freedom. Oppression comes in different forms, as even those who live free are not always free to do what their hearts desire.
I believe this would make an excellent addition to an Art History class or a Civil Rights class which focuses on slavery in the South. The tone of the book is uplifting, shattering past the blights of misery to yield a lens into how strong women can be in the moments that count the most.
Rated of 5
by Emily G. (Clear Lake, MN)
Skillful handling of complex stories
It took me a while to get drawn into this book. I was skeptical about the slavery reparations lawsuit that serves as a catalyst for Lina Sparrow's search and I feared another slave narrative.
However, about half way through the book, I realized I was in masterful hands. Conklin created vivid worlds and engaging characters in both 1852 and 2004. She created characters who I wanted to know, for whom I rooted and about whom I cared. She never settled for the trite or obvious plot points and brought the narratives to effective and satisfying closure. I loved the focus on female artists and the questions of creativity, love, and relationships.
I think this novel would make a wonderful book club read because of the variety of complex themes involved and the many points through which readers can enter book. The House Girl is a carefully crafted exploration of identity, gender, slavery and familial relationships that I very much enjoyed.
Rated of 5
by Ruth O. (Downingtown, PA)
Historical search for the truth
'The House Girl' takes place in two time periods, 2004 and 1852, and explores a legal case for reparations for slavery. The book took several chapters to really catch my interest as it laid out the foundation of the story. As the story progressed, however, my curiosity increased and I was unable to put the book down until I finished it.
The chapters smoothly flowed back and forth between the time periods, focusing on the staid young lawyer who was researching the reparations case in 2004 and the young slave girl in 1852. It wove together art and family secrets that occurred in both time periods, and both protagonists had to find their own identities. This was a very unique approach to the search for truth, and I enjoyed it very much. I would recommend this to book clubs!
Rated of 5
by Judy B. (Santa Fe,, NM)
History as a Novel
I loved this story. I did not mind that the book was written in the present and in the past. I was always wondering what would happen next in either the past or the present. In the past, this is a story about a young girl who is trained as a house slave; in the present, this is a story about a young female lawyer who is helping to put together a case for reparations of descendents of slaves in the US. There are many stories being woven together to make this story; the author has done a fine job. However, there are too many coincidences, such as the lawyer's father is an artist; she accidentally meets a musician who turns out to be a possible descendent of the house slave; the lawyer collects a big piece of the puzzle in the form of a letter that has been hidden in a book. The history in this novel really makes it very interesting if you do not know much Civil War history; however that was one of my favorites parts of history in college which made this story all the more interesting----the buying and selling of slaves, the Underground Railroad--all a fascinating part of the South and our slave-owning past of the United States. This issue nearly tore apart our country. This novel is one of the best ways to learn about that past!
Rated of 5
by Mary R. (San Jose, CA)
A New Twist on Slavery
The House Girl is a compelling story that interweaves two women from different eras and races. Making the character of Josephine a painter was a fascinating twist on the slavery story – as was having her paintings co-opted by her owner. The opposing modern day story with Lina as an attorney was also a insightful look into the legal world of reparation lawsuits. The twists and turns at the end brought the story full circle and I guess the only thing that I wish is that there was more of a conclusive ending.
Rated of 5
by Naomi Benaron (author of Running the Rift)
Spellbound by the narration
The two juxtaposed strands in Tara Konklin's The House Girl immediately pulled me in: Josephine, fiercely proud house girl, born into slavery in Virginia in the 1830's, and Lina Sparrow, ambitious and fiercely independent lawyer, beginning a career with a prestigious New York law firm. The characters were tenderly wrought, their stories compelling and richly complex, bound together not only by what they have - a propelling drive for justice and for recognition—but also by what they lack – the presence of a mother in their lives. I was spellbound as the narrative propelled me forward, the two stories weaving closer and closer together in both inevitable and unexpected ways. Alas, for me, the spell was broken in the last third of the novel when the narrative veered from these two voices into those of more minor characters. I had fallen in love, and I did not want the sharp-edged beam of Conklin's prose to look away.
Rated of 5
by Julie M. (Minnetonka, MN)
Art Documents History
This was a wonderful book about the power of creativity and art in a young slave girl. It portrays in an inspiring story how through art a person survives long after they have left this world. It reinforced the importance of art in our world and of preserving our history.
U.S. ebook sales up in 2012, but rate of growth is slowing(May 16 2013) In 2012, trade book sales (i.e. non academic book sales) rose 6.9%, to $15.049 billion, and e-book sales continued to grow, although the rate of growth...