The House Girl, a captivating historical novel about slavery by Tara Conklin
Author : Tara Conklin | Publisher : William Morrow & Company
Anne-Cécile W.'s review Thursday 12 December, 2013
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.
I was first attracted by the beautiful cover of this book. Then I discovered that many people seemed to appreciate it very much, finding it both thrilling and touching.
I am not particularly fond of historical fiction, but the subject was very captivating, and Tara Conklin described everything so perfectly (she even describes things too much sometimes) that I had the impression to be there, at Josephine's side.
The book tells the stories of the slave-girl Josephine in 1850's Virginia and of the lawyer Lina in 2004 in New York City, separating both well.
The House Girl made me laugh, cry, shake: I felt everything that Josephine did, joy or pain, and this novel made me aware of the cruelty of American slavery.
It is Conklin's first novel, so it may contain some mistakes but it is generally very touching and litteraly heartbreaking.A must-read for all those who had loved The Help.