A Review: The House Girl

I hope everyone had a happy, safe, and relaxing Thanksgiving. My family had a great holiday and it was surprisingly relaxing, given the eighteen people who were there. The day after Thanksgiving was low-key since I try to do as little shopping as possible on the day that has come to be known as Black Friday.

But I did discover something new on Black Friday. At least it’s new to me. Want to know what it is? Wait for it…

I have a new top-ten Christmas movie to add to last week’s list, with thanks to my sister and her kids. It’s Eloise at Christmastime, an adorable movie starring Julie Andrews as Nanny and Sofia Vassilieva as Eloise. Eloise and Nanny live in the penthouse at the Plaza in New York City. Eloise’s mom travels often, so Nanny is Eloise’s second mom and the two of them make a perfect team. The story is based on the book of the same name by Kay Thompson. I would have enjoyed Eloise at Christmastime with or without my kids, but kids make it even more fun!

So on to this week’s topic, which is my review of The House Girl, a novel of historical fiction by Tara Conklin. The story alternates between two time periods: the mid-nineteenth century and the early twenty-first century. In a very basic nutshell, the novel tells the stories of Josephine, a house slave in Virginia, and Lina, a lawyer in a big New York firm. The lives of the two women intersect following a search to find the real artist behind a collection of works allegedly painted by Josephine’s “owner” and Lina’s search to find the perfect plaintiff for a slavery reparations lawsuit being handled by her firm.

I liked the author’s use of the alternating time periods to tell the stories of Josephine and Lina. There are some surprising parallels between the two women that are revealed as the novel progresses, but this is a no-spoiler zone. Believe me when I tell you that the reader is swept into the horror and seeming impossibility of Josephine’s situation and also feels deeply Lina’s pain and confusion over her own past. The history I learned in the book was eye-opening, too, especially one ingenious method possibly used by the Underground Railroad to help slaves escape to freedom. Several important truths are revealed in the book in the form of letters written in the past and preserved for the present and future. I loved the letters- they are written in a beautiful and authentic nineteenth-century style. The last letter, arguably the most important, is wonderfully written and holds tragic secrets. I only wish the writer of the letter had been revealed a bit earlier, since trying to figure out the author of the letter distracted me from its actual words.

In short, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a novel with a solid historical basis and an intriguing dovetail of past and present.

What are you reading?

Until next week,