The House Girl by Tara Conklin
William Morrow, 2013
I just finished reading an advance reader’s edition of The House Girl by Tara Conklin. I received this edition to participate in TLC Book Tours blog tour for the novel. Check out the previous blog tour reviews HERE. Also, a few more tour stops are scheduled.
The hardcover edition is currently at No. 29 on the New York Times bestsellers list for fiction, having just debuted on February 12th. Obviously, the book is going to be a hit. Set in modern day New York as well as the mid 1800’s, The House Girl tells the story of Lina, a young lawyer trying to prove herself and the story of Josephine, a house slave in Charlotte County, Virginia, and her quest to run north.
I chose to read The House Girl because I enjoy historical fiction. Ms. Conklin uses two characters from two time periods and I was interested in comparing the differences and similarities in their lives. One is a house slave living in the middle of Virginia on a failing farm and the other is a young, New York City attorney trying to make sense of her work life and her personal life. Could these characters have similarities?
Art plays a major role in The House Girl. For more than a century, Josephine’s beautiful art is credited to her owner, Missus Lu, mistress of the house she has grown up in without her own mother. Lina’s father, an established artist in New York, has been preparing for a big show at a gallery and many descriptions of some of his art and of Josephine’s art are detailed in the book. Oscar, Lina’s father, is showing his latest paintings and the subject is Lina’s long-deceased mother who died when Lina was just a baby. Art reviews, art critics, and art galleries play parts in this story.
I liked how chapters and sections switched back and forth from Lina’s point of view to Josephine’s and back again throughout the book. Also, one of the minor characters was seen in the form of letters to her sister. Near the end, a long letter was presented by one of the 1800’s characters and was used as a technique to resolve some mysteries. The use of all of these techniques keeps the story moving and the reader involved.
The House Girl is very accomplished for a debut novel, but I think both stories were resolved too neatly, easily, and quickly after the long journeys of both women were endured; however, endured in a good way. I was transported to a small plantation in Virginia where humans were treated as animals and that pervasively terrible attitude that you still encounter in many places was brought forth in all its ugliness. One could also imagine the world of working at a law firm, with its deadlines, billable hours, and clients-to-appease frantic pace.
–photo of Tara Conklin by Mary Grace Long Photography
Art, relationships, and history all make The House Girl a book I enjoyed and recommend.
HEAR Ms. Conklin speak about her inspiration for the book HERE.
Check out Ms. Conklin’s FACEBOOK page.