Review: The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Description (from cover):

‘Two remarkable women, separated by more than a century, whose lives unexpectedly intertwine…

2004: Lina Sparrow is an ambitious young lawyer working on a historic class-action lawsuit seeking reparations for the descendents of American slaves.

1852: Josephine is a seventeen-year-old house slave who tends to the mistress of a Virginia tobacco farm–an aspiring artist named Lu Anne Bell.

It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers a controversy rocking the art world: art historians now suspect that the revered paintings of Lu Anne Bell, an antebellum artist known for her humanizing portraits of the slaves who worked for her Virginia tobacco farm, were actually the work of her house slave, Josephine.

A descendent of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the lawsuit–if Lina can find one. But nothing is known about Josephine’s fate following Lu Anne Bell’s death in 1852. In piecing together Josephine’s story, Lina embarks on a journey that will lead her to question her own life, including the full story of her mother’s mysterious death twenty years before.

Alternating between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing tale of art and history, love and secrets explored what it means to repair a wrong, and asks whether truth can be more important than justice.’

My thoughts:

I had heard good things about this book before I picked it up from various review sources and knew that I just had to read it. This is a lovely and engaging tale of a modern day attorney and a slave in the year of 1852. I really enjoyed the back and forth of the chapters in this book and enjoyed the way that the two main characters were linked regardless of a substantial time gap. Conklin writes a captivating story that involves art, slavery and history. Lina is trying to figure out some things about Josephine Bell for a class-action lawsuit she is a part of. Josephine is a slave on a Virginia tobacco farm and has a passion for art and for freedom.

Lina is an attorney living in modern day New York City, but she has some things she has to work through. Her mother mysteriously died twenty years before and her father hasn’t been completely honest with her. Using Josephine’s story and life as a guide, she puts her past to rest and learns who she is in the process. Josephine is a slave and her mistress is dying. She is scared of the changes that might come in the future after her mistress’ death and knows that if she is going to try to run for freedom, she must do so immediately. In a time where slaves were in a world of turmoil and uncertainty, Josephine perseveres and teaches us all a lesson in never giving up hope.

I really enjoyed reading this story because it was a remarkable story and had a hint of the mysterious. The author did a fantastic job of creating a beautiful tale and I most definitely will read more if Conklin decides to continue writing. I encourage lovers of historical fiction to pick up this book as it will leave you somewhat changed after reading it. It teaches us that no matter what, we must have faith and believe, even at the bleakest and darkest moments. A motivating tale with two remarkable characters that will be hard to forget.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  The House Girl
Author:  Tara Conklin
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  William Morrow
Publication Date:  February 12, 2013
Pages:  384
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was selected from the library by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

8 thoughts on “Review: The House Girl by Tara Conklin

  1. This book has been on my “to read” list for awhile; I appreciate your comments and review. I just finished reading Winter Witch, maybe I'll read this one next. Thanks again.


  2. I love it when a story stays with you long after you close the book! I've been wondering about this book for a while now, so thank you for your review. I will definitely be adding this to my reading list.


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