Thursday, August 21, 2014

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

I picked up Tara Conklin's The House Girl at our library's wonderful book sale after having previously seen it labeled a "Book Club Pick" at Target.  I really enjoyed The Kitchen House and this looked like it might be similar.  Told from the point of view of two women living one hundred and fifty years apart, this book is about the lives and losses of slaves in the antebellum South and the reverberations of those actions still felt today.  In 2004, Lina Sparrow is a lawyer in New York City building a lawsuit seeking reparations for the descendants of former slaves.  She comes across the story of a young slave who may or may not be the actual artist behind some of the time's most beloved portraits.  In 1852, Josephine is that young woman and she is desperate for escape from her terrible conditions.  In the short term, painting provides a kind of salve for her pains, but it isn't long before running is her only option.

While I did enjoy this book, I was disappointed that it wasn't more readable.  It was very slow and some of the story lines felt unfocused.  I love a good historical novel and this one contained plenty of research.  I also felt that just when I became invested in many of the characters, their stories abruptly ended.  This was at times frustrating.  I know that an author is not always going to make the decisions I would like her to make, but Ms. Conklin seemed to consistently take characters in a direction I did not like.  That is completely subjective on my part and I fully admit it, but I feel I must include it in my review.

I am interested in reading more books of this time period exploring slavery and the Underground Railroad.  Do you have any suggestions for me?

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