Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Julie's Review: The House Girl

Summary: The House Girl, the historical fiction debut by Tara Conklin, is an unforgettable story of love, history, and a search for justice, set in modern-day New York and 1852 Virginia. Weaving together the story of an escaped slave in the pre–Civil War South and a determined junior lawyer, The House Girl follows Lina Sparrow as she looks for an appropriate lead plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking compensation for families of slaves. In her research, she learns about Lu Anne Bell, a renowned prewar artist whose famous works might have actually been painted by her slave, Josephine. Featuring two remarkable, unforgettable heroines, Tara Conklin's The House Girl is riveting and powerful, literary fiction at its very best.

Review: It took for me to get to the last 3/4 of the book for me to not want to put The House Girl down. It's not that I wasn't enjoying it, but as with everything I'm reading lately it just didn't pull me in. It's not that I didn't like Lina or Josephine it's just that I failed to connect with them. I don't always have to connect with the characters but I do have to want to understand their journey.

With Josephine, I knew her journey was going to be rough and hard to read. Ms. Conklin did an excellent job with this storyline. She described the brutality of escaping and the realism that many tried but failed. And if they failed and were returned home to their owners, the hell that waited for them there. We are told  Josephine's story through her eyes in flashbacks. Ms. Conklin does an excellent job of revelling the story through subtleties and the use of words instead of hitting you over the head with them. As an avid reader, I appreciated this because it gave me a moment to think and mull over what she was alluding to.

Lina is a corporate Lawyer who is assigned to work on the reparations case for a client. It is through this case that Lina begins to assess her own family and question the story her father has told her about her mother. It is Lina's story and her digging into finding the truth about Josephine that I found the most enticing. It is what kept me coming back to the book. I wanted her to keep digging into the past even though her boss was discouraging. I wanted her to come into her own.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ending The House Girl. It ended the only way it really could. Reparations is such a divisive subject matter and Ms. Conklin wrote about it with assurance and care. Ancestry is a hard subject matter to tackle and I think that when you add in something like reparations, it can get even trickier. Especially if there is a lot of money at stake.

I look forward to reading what Ms. Conklin has published in the future.

Final Take: 4/5

Thanks to William Morrow for my ARC copy to review.



stacybuckeye February 27, 2013 at 11:54 PM  

I've been reading good things about this one. I'm sure it would generate a lot of discussion!

*krystyn* March 5, 2013 at 11:49 AM  

First I am SOOOO happy I found this blog...which I found through a tweet from Beth Hoffman...yay! I just bought this book on Amazon yesterday as the price went down a bit and I have been anxious to read it. I enjoyed your review and plan to read The House Girl next!!

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