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53 out of 61 people found this review helpful.
From 1852 to 2004....from one artist to another....from a farm i
THE HOUSE GIRL flawlessly switches between these two time periods telling of the life of Josephine, a slave girl, Lina, a New York City attorney, and L...
THE HOUSE GIRL flawlessly switches between these two time periods telling of the life of Josephine, a slave girl, Lina, a New York City attorney, and Lina's father, Oscar, an artist. The book leads you through the life of Josephine as she struggles with her decision to "run, it leads you through the life of Lina who is researching families who may benefit from wrong doing during the period of slavery in the United States, and it leads you through the life of Oscar trying to make amends through his artwork.
The most significant question, though, along with finding descendants is that of who really did create the paintings found in Lu Anne Bell's home? Was it really Lu Anne or was it Josephine? Corresponding with this painting mystery and the mystery of Josephine's descendants is that of Lina's mother...what really did happen to her when Lina was only four?
You will get caught up in both stories because of the great detail Ms. Conklin uses and because of the research. I love "digging" for historical information. As you switch between the two stories, you will ask yourself to choose which life you were more interested in....Lina's or Josephine's....it may be difficult to choose since both were appealing and drew you in, but for me Josephine's story wins hands down for interest.
It took a few chapters, but you will become so involved, it becomes difficult to stop reading....you want to know what will become of the characters and the answer to the mysteries.
Each character comes alive with the vivid detail Ms. Conklin uses, and she puts their feelings out in the open...you can feel the tension, the pain, the frustration, the longing, and the fleeting happiness they experience. I really enjoyed this book because of the history and the research and of course the detailed descriptions of the characters.
The historical aspect and the fact-finding kept me up late. It is very interesting how the farm's kitchen records, crop records, and births and deaths of every person including the slaves was kept. I thoroughly enjoy these types of findings. I also wonder how these records were not destroyed and who would have thought to preserve them. Such foresight....something to be grateful for.
Don't miss this book especially if you are a historical fiction buff. This book pulls you in and will cause you to pause and reflect on the human race and have you wondering about the reasons why we do what we do, have you wondering what the reasons are that lead us to make the choices we make, and have you wondering about the reason we turned out to be the person we are. 5/5
This book was given to me without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.
posted by SilversReviews on February 12, 2013Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 8, 2013
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Two parallel sto
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings
Two parallel stories run through this book and are interconnected in many ways, some obvious and some a little more symbolic - Josephine Bell is a slave living in the home on Bell Creek Farm while Lina Sparrow is living in her childhood home with her artist father and working her way up the ladder as a corporate lawyer. Lina's firm has taken on a case that could set precedent if given a landmark decision to acknowledge the value slaves added to corporations and to compensate them for their lack of income while enslaved to the ancestors of these corporate moguls. Josephine Bell and her possible heirs could be Lina's ticket for winning this controversial case, if she can find all the details of the past.
8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 2, 2013
Posted April 19, 2013
Posted March 23, 2013
Josephine is a house girl who lives at a foundering plantation w
Josephine is a house girl who lives at a foundering plantation with the Mister and Missus and a few other slaves. Once Josephine decides that she is going escape to freedom, nothing diverts her from that goal and nothing can bring her back to the southern plantation where she was abused. Josephine has allowed herself to forget a devastating past that begins to resurface once she makes the final decision that she will run. She can't help but remember the first time she ran and the subsequent consequences.
Lina is on partner track at a prestigious law firm when she is placed on a big project for a very special client. Her personal and professional lives merge when she first hears about Josephine Bell, a slave that might have been the true artist of paintings previously attributed to her white plantation owner. Already familiar with the art world, dives into the mystery involving the long ago events. While investigating Josephine and her descendants, Lina stumbles upon a personal issue that rocks her world.
The chapters of this book alternate between Josephine and Lina's point of view. At times we get to see through other characters but it is primarily Josephine and Lina telling the story. This format worked because the titles were clear at the beginning of each chapter and the stories are quite separate. They could have been separate books. I am grateful that this wasn't a depressing read. It can be uncomfortable reading about certain issues but this one doesn't focus on the physical cruelty of slavery, but instead focuses on the issue of identity and the fact that the harm of slavery goes much further than manual labor and punishments. Friends and I have previously discussed this issue and I was quite satisfied with how well it was done here. I wasn't quite connected to Josephine Bell but I felt moderately connected to Lina. I was enthralled with this book from beginning to end. The writing is great. Though it is connected to a tough subject, Ms. Conklin does a great job weaving a story that is much bigger than the idea of slavery.
1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 9, 2013
Posted March 4, 2013
Posted February 21, 2014
A great read! You will not be disappointed.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It held my interest throughout and it demonstrated the complexities of life during the period of slavery. The ending was great and speaks to today of those who do things for greed and those who do things out of the goodness of their heart to make things right. I would recommend this for book club discussion.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 19, 2014
Posted December 25, 2013
Posted December 16, 2013
The House Girl by Tara Conklin is a book I had been looking forw
The House Girl by Tara Conklin is a book I had been looking forward to reading and was excited when it showed up in my mailbox (Thank you, Dewey's Read-a-thon, for sending me the prize I chose!).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
For this book, I'm trying something new.
Here's my summary of The House Girl by Tara Conklin, in only 18 words:
Dual narrative. Slave Josephine. Present-day Lawyer Lina. Was Josephine the artist? Can Lina help with slave reparations?
Now here's my review, in 10 words:
Couldn't stop reading. Add to TBR. Two thumbs way up.
Thanks for reading,
Rebecca @ Love at First Book
Posted October 11, 2013
There's always been conversations around the legacy of slavery,
There's always been conversations around the legacy of slavery, reparations and the contributions of African-Americans in the building of this country. The House Girl touches a little on those subjects through the eyes of Josephine, an enslaved woman in 1852 Virginia and Lina, the daughter of a prominent artist and a young lawyer in current day Manhattan. Lina has a chance to secure her future with a prominent law firm by taking on a class action case that seeks reparations for the descendants of slaves. While looking for a example to serve as the foundation for the lawsuit, she comes across a controversy in the art world that questions whether the work of famous 19th century artist, Lu Anne Bell, was really painted by her or by her house slave, Josephine.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Conklin has the story unfold by going back and forth between the voices of Josephine and Lina. We experience the isolation of both women from the people around them along with their respective quests for freedom: Josephine's in a literal sense and Lina's from the silence surrounding her mother's disappearance from her life. A thought-provoking and impressive debut.
Posted October 4, 2013
Our book club read and discussed this most interesting story about a young slave girl, her life, her art, family. Each chapter alternates between the 1850's and a modern "house girl", large law firm first year woman. There are many parallels to both these lives. In spite of this being fiction, there are many facts to be learned from it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 4, 2013
Posted July 30, 2013
Posted May 9, 2013
Posted May 8, 2013
Posted May 3, 2013
Posted March 25, 2013
Posted March 20, 2013
Really well written story that flashes from one time in history to today. Characters are real and engaging. Couldn't stop reading to see where the story would take me and connect the present day to the past. Easy to read and follow. This will be a book I know I will read again and again.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 25, 2013
Black History Month is wrapping up and I just finished a novel t
Black History Month is wrapping up and I just finished a novel that fits in well with that celebration. Tara Conklin's debut novel, The House Girl first beckons to you with a stunningly beautiful cover; a silhouette of young woman against a serene green background of what looks like wallpaper, with birds and flowers.
While the cover pulls you in, it is the beautiful writing that urges you to keep reading. The story takes place in two time frames- 1852, where we meet Josephine, a 17-year-old house slave who cares for the ailing mistress of the house, LuAnn Bell. LuAnn is a painter, and from time to time she allows Josephine to paint as well.
LuAnn also taught Josephine how to read. Josephine yearns for freedom, and we discover throughout the story that she once tried to escape but was returned to her owners.
In 2004, Lina Sparrow is a corporate lawyer, the daughter of Oscar, a famous artist. Lina's mother died when she was a child, and she has very few memories of her mother. Lina is chosen by one of the partners at her law firm to work on finding a plaintiff for a big case- a slave reparations lawsuit that a big client wishes to bring against corporations that made lots of money off the labor of slaves.
Lina attends a show of LuAnn Bell's paintings, and hears about a controversy surrounding the show. Some people believe that Josephine is the actual artist, and the controversy has made headlines. Lina believes that descendants of Josephine would make the perfect plaintiffs for her case, so she travels to Virginia in search of them.
The story alternates between Josephine and Lina's point of view, but the most interesting parts of the novel for me were the letters written by Dorothea Rounds (an abolitionist who helped her undertaker father as a stop on the Underground Railroad) to her sister Kate, and a twenty page letter written by Caleb Harper, a disgraced medical student and brother-in-law to Dorothea.
Dorothea's letters to her sister explain in great detail how she and her father cleverly hid slaves in coffins destined for shipment up North. As someone who grew up in Auburn NY, the last home of Harriet Tubman and a stop on the Underground Railroad, I found this so fascinating. How their scheme ends is a sad tale and the author tells it in such a compelling manner I found myself on the edge of my seat as I read it.
Caleb's story is a sad one too. He has a alcohol problem and after he is blamed for a family tragedy, he completely falls apart. He ends up working for a slave catcher, medically treating the slaves so that they can be resold further South. When Caleb meets up with Josephine, he sees a chance at redemption.
I raced through Caleb's 20-page letter because his story was so interesting, and he is such a well-written character. Many other reviews have mentioned that Josephine's story is more compelling than Lina's, and I think it is partly because of these two primary sources that Lina uncovers. They are quite well done.
The House Girl is one of those books that slowly pulls you in, and once you are in, you can hardly come up for air. Josephine's story and her yearning for basic human dignity and what she is willing to endure to find that are inspirational and heartbreaking. If you are a fan of historical fiction, I highly recommend this irresistible debut novel and I look forward to more to come from Tara Conklin.
rating 4 of 5
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