Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review & Giveaway: The House Girl




The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 368 (ARC)
Source: Publisher through TLC Book Tours
Author's WebsiteTwitter | Facebook
Buy it: Amazon | Kindle | B&N | Book Depo

Description:

Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.

It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers Josephine Bell and a controversy roiling the art world: are the iconic paintings long ascribed to Lu Anne Bell really the work of her house slave, Josephine? A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the reparations lawsuit—if Lina can find one. While following the runaway girl’s faint trail through old letters and plantation records, Lina finds herself questioning her own family history and the secrets that her father has never revealed: How did Lina’s mother die? And why will he never speak about her?

Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing, suspenseful and heartbreaking tale of art and history, love and secrets, explores what it means to repair a wrong and asks whether truth is sometimes more important than justice
My Rating:


My Review:
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.




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35 comments:

  1. hmmm kind of a hard question. I usually see an ending as the story moves forward...I suppose the one storyline in BLACKBERRY WINTER by Sarah Jio did surprise me. I would love to be shocked!

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    1. Laura Kay
      anovelreview(@)yahoo(.)com

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    2. I haven't read that one and I love Sarah Jio. I need to check on that. Don't forget to fill out the rafflecopter :)

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  2. Not necessarily in a "i loved the ending" kind of way but Gone Girl was an ending I wouldn't have guessed. Normally I am pretty good at judging how a book is going to end but that one I didn't see coming (I saw parts of it just not one particular part--which was small but significant).

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    1. I'm pretty good at telling how a book is going to end too. Now I'm curious about Gone Girl.

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  3. I was completely blind sided by the ending of Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead. I couldn't believe what happened.

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    1. Man this question is making me curious about all these books!

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  4. First I want to comment on the review. I actually like the sound of this one and the duality of past and present has me intrigued. I always seem interested in stories that delve into and have secrets from the past that affect the current state of affairs somehow.

    As far as a book whose ending surprised me...without a doubt I'd have to name Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Totally unexpected and made me want to read the next book all the more. Lovely review!

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    1. The secrets in this were unveiled so beautifully. But I especially loved how nothing was black or white...literally.

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  5. This book looks so familiar. Hold on. Let me check to see if I have it............Oh I do. Don't enter me in the giveaway I have it sitting on my shelf collecting dust. I am glad you liked it. I will have to get to it soon.

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  6. Thanks for the review and giveaway! I just finished The Colour of Milk; part of the conclusion could be foreseen, but it was still shocking.

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    1. You are right that a book can have a shocking ending even if it was expected.

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  7. Thanks for the review and the giveaway!
    Emma
    ehc16e at yahoo dot com

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  8. sorry, I commented before seeing your question. Nothing comes to mind right now, but I was talking with a friend about A Thread of Grace, by Mary Doria Russell (I recommended it to her, but read too many years ago to remember the ending myself). She was shocked that "the author killed all the good guys" at the end!
    Emma
    ehc16e at yahoo dot com

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  9. The concept of it sounds good and I have found that I do like novels that go back and forth like you describe. I think I would really like Josephine.

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  10. i don't usually try to guess the ending of a book, as i'm usually so 'into' the book........
    thank you for the giveaway!!!

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    1. I don't try to guess exactly but I still have some underlying expectations I guess.

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  11. The first one that springs to mind is A Perfect Day for Bananafish, the first story in J.D. Salinger's book, Nine Stories. I guess I should have seen it coming but it really did take me by surprise. Thanks for the giveaway.

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    1. I haven't read that one. It makes me want to find out what happens in the end.

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  12. The plot of this one sounds quite intriguing.

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  13. I really can't think of a book that I found the ending shocking. Cutting Season had a different ending than I expected.

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

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  14. "weaving a story that is much bigger than the idea of slavery" - now I'm REALLY intrigued! I was already planning to read this one but I've moved it higher on my TBR list thanks to you.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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  15. I can't really think of a book I've read with an ending that shocked me.




    Bonnie

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  16. True Colors by Kristin Hannah did surprise me a bit. I sort of saw it coming and then the story took another unexpected direction.

    My raffle name is Fiery Na

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    1. I like Kristin Hannah. I need to check into True Colors.

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