Friday, December 20, 2013

Julie's Review: The Housemaid's Daughter

Summary: Barbara Mutch's stunning first novel tells a story of love and duty colliding on the arid plains of Apartheid-era South Africa. When Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Ireland in 1919 to travel to South Africa, she knows that she does not love the man she is to marry there her fiance Edward, whom she has not seen for five years. Isolated and estranged in a small town in the harsh Karoo desert, her only real companions are her diary and her housemaid, and later the housemaid's daughter, Ada. When Ada is born, Cathleen recognizes in her someone she can love and respond to in a way that she cannot with her own family. Under Cathleens tutelage, Ada grows into an accomplished pianist and a reader who cannot resist turning the pages of the diary, discovering the secrets Cathleen sought to hide. As they grow closer, Ada sees new possibilities in front of her—a new horizon. But in one night, everything changes, and Cathleen comes home from a trip to find that Ada has disappeared, scorned by her own community. Cathleen must make a choice: should she conform to society, or search for the girl who has become closer to her than her own daughter? Set against the backdrop of a beautiful, yet divided land, The Housemaid's Daughter is a startling and thought-provoking novel that intricately portrays the drama and heartbreak of two women who rise above cruelty to find love, hope, and redemption. ~powells.com

Review: The Housemaid's Daughter is a thought provoking, well-written, methodical novel about the affects of apartheid on a small area of South Africa. The story is told through the eyes of Ada, the black housemaid's daughter. Ada's voice is unique and at times it was frustrating to read the novel from her point of view. There is something about Ada that would grate on my nerves at times and I've tried to figure it out but it alludes me. We follow Ada through her life as a young girl at Cradock House to her life as an old woman in South Africa.

The story got interesting when Ada left Cradock house and went to live in the village for a few years. She learned about life outside the comforts of Cradock House and how most black people lived in South Africa. She begins to understand how sheltered her life has been and how things aren't always as easy for everyone. It is the beginning of apartheid and while the color of your skin has always been an issue, it makes it essentially illegal to be black. It strips them of what little rights they did have and insights rebellion among the people.

The Housemaid's Daughter not about apartheid; apartheid is the background to this story. It is about Ada and her journey from a young girl, young woman and mother. She grows into a woman who finally understands a bit more about the world outside her small, contained world. She is still naive even into her older years. Ada never becomes worldly but she begins to understand how South Africa politics has made their way to her little part of the world. We spent a lot of time with Ada as a young woman and her later life was written quickly as a resolution to the novel.

With the recent death of Mandela, it makes the book a bit more interesting from a historical perspective. I can't even imagine the strife that the black citizens went through during the reign of apartheid. 

Final Take: 3.75/5


Thanks to St. Martin's Press for my copy of the novel. Also, this is our Hashtag Book for December. You can discuss with us by using #HousemaidsDaughter.

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