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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.