Judy G. (Carmel, IN)
Households and Families
This book was interesting as it got me thinking that even long ago 'outsiders' often became thought of and treated as family members. The story does a good job of weaving racial and cultural differences into stories about family. Additionally, it points out that there have been people throughout history who were able to remain free of bias and who at times were the only ones ensuring survival of those who were being outcast or mistreated due to bias. Can we foster support for a kinder, more bias-free world through books such as this and reading in general?
Michael F. (Providence, RI)
A surprisingly elegant debut
To be perfectly honest, I was not prepared to like this book. It seemed it was to be a light read, one fraught with probable missteps – a white woman writing from the perspective of the black daughter of a mid-century housemaid in South Africa's remote Karoo. But from the start, the writing was delightful, the characters true and sympathetic, and the story simply engaging. Stylistically, I noticed none of the awkward prose commonly seen in first novels. Quite the contrary, Barbara Mutch seems a born writer who, if justice exists, must certainly have a successful career ahead of her. I was happy to have spent a few days at her emotional mercy, immersed in her sweet, sometimes heartbreaking story about the true definition of family.
Duane F. (Cape Girardeau, MO)
The Housemaid's Daughter
This books resounds with lyrical passages, historical and at the same time it conveys a rich sense of person. The characters are well developed and easily loved, even those one would consider as the antagonists can be seen as sympathetic. The plot is set in a period of unrest and turmoil. Apartheid and South Africa come alive as Ada ventures beyond the safety of the only home she has ever know, as a simple housemaid's daughter. The reader is engaged from the first page as this gentle, insightful, and brave young woman begins her life. Thru her narrative, we come to know the other characters.
Women of this time were considered of less value and yet it is these strong women who must contend with the new laws against the commingling of the races. To be a woman is not of value and to be a black woman is less, but to bare or be a biracial child is criminal. Wrapped in these terms, Ada and Cathleen, her Madam, must face these laws and find a way to survive. The relationship of these two women will inspire and awe the reader.
This book allows us to see their relationship first and the world second. It is an extraordinary story of bonds that can't be broken and love that surpasses their circumstances. And yet, it is written as a rhapsody, as beautiful as any piece of music. It spreads across the pages as nimbly as Ada's fingers fly across the keys, with Cathleen standing behind her back and Dawn, her daughter standing on the threshold of a new future for South Africa.
Every so often I come across a book which haunts my memory, this is one that will fill and haunt the reader at the same time.
Susan K. (Dartmouth, MA)
Lots of unanswered questions.
In this book, the protagonist, Ada, was someone I couldn't connect with very much; her personality seemed flat, somehow, and incapable of showing much emotion. The story line was good, although it proceeded too slowly for my liking. I did enjoy the author's scene-setting talents, her ability to almost put you right in the landscape, feeling the breeze and smelling the scents. She seemed less proficient in portraying people's feelings. A number of the characters were almost totally undeveloped, Dawn and Rosemary in particular. Fleshing out those two characters would have helped the story (for me, at least). A good first book, nonetheless - book clubs will like it.
Nikki M. (Fort Wayne, IN)
While "The Housemaid's Daughter" was an enjoyable enough read, I feel that I've read this same story many times before. It was a little too predictable for me.
Esther L. (Newtown, PA)
A story of Apartheid
It took me quite a while to be drawn into the book, but I am very glad that I persevered. It blossomed into a riveting and heartbreaking story of apartheid in South Africa and the bonds of two women who rise above cruelty to find love, hope and redemption. It is the story of Irish immigrant Cathleen Harrington and her housemaid's daughter Ada. When Master Edward starts a sexual relationship with Ada, the shame and birth of a light skinned, blue eyed baby girl take the story into uncharted territory. How Ada and Madam Cathleen survive the turbulent times and situations they find themselves in make for a wonderful book.
Cynthia S. (Rensselaer, NY)
The Housemaid's Daughter
Apartheid divides South Africa and is the backdrop for this book. The piano provides relief for a heavy story. Mutch's characters evoke all kinds of emotion: compassion,love, hatred, fear, cruelty to name a few. Ada and Madam's relationship is complex and well developed. Edward was despicable. Craddock House provided a good setting contrast with the black living sections. I felt that the author went a generation too long but she may have wanted to show promise.