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 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 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 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 vam (San Antono, Texas) 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.
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