The House Girl

The House Girl

A Novel

Book - 2013
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The House Girl, the historical fiction debut by Tara Conklin, is an unforgettable story of love, history, and a search for justice, set in modern-day New York and 1852 Virginia.

Weaving together the story of an escaped slave in the pre-Civil War South and a determined junior lawyer, The House Girl follows Lina Sparrow as she looks for an appropriate lead plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking compensation for families of slaves. In her research, she learns about Lu Anne Bell, a renowned prewar artist whose famous works might have actually been painted by her slave, Josephine.

Featuring two remarkable, unforgettable heroines, Tara Conklin's The House Girl is riveting and powerful, literary fiction at its very best.

Publisher: New York : William Morrow Paperbacks, 2013.
ISBN: 9780062207395
Branch Call Number: FICTION CON


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AL_ANNAL Dec 27, 2017

Two engrossing plots, settings, and characters; 1850's Virginia and NYC in 2004. Confront the pathology inherent in the relationship between a house slave and the mistress; follow the life of a young black lawyer preparing a lawsuit claiming reparations for descendants of slaves.

Nov 10, 2017

A good book that juggles a modern day story with a connected historical story. I found this really engaging right up until the end where I thought it lost focus a bit. Still a good read though.

CatherineG_1 Sep 10, 2016

Thornhill Village Evening Book Club Selection

Thursday, October 13th, 2016.

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Jun 10, 2016

This book was well written and kept me engaged throughout. Admittedly, I found Josephine's story much more compelling than Lina's, but I suspect that was intentional. I'm fairly certain that Lina was included as a way to give us information about key characters in Josephine's story that could not have been given just by following her.

While the suspense factor would be gone, I would re-read this book.

Aug 30, 2015

I thought this might be a rip-off of the help, but it isn't. It is a good story on it's own. Although it is hard to read about the way slaves were abused, this paints a realistic picture. I would rate it PG-13

Mar 10, 2015

I enjoyed this book, both for its modern storyline that involved a class action lawsuit and for the historical storyline involving a slave with artistic talent.

May 26, 2014

This book alternates between a tale of an antebellum south slave girl, the underground rail road and Dorthea Round (real person- activist with underground railroad) and Lina a fictional lawyer in modern day America who is working on a case for reparations for the descendants of American slaves. It is a fascinating book which intertwines the stories of many remarkable and not so remarkable people during a notorious period of our past. Very readable.

BCD2013 May 12, 2014

NYPL Staff Pick
Lena Sparrow, a lawyer in contemporary New York, finds secrets and questions in the art world and her family when she searches for a descendant of a pre-Civil War runaway slave.
- Selection Team

May 04, 2014

The House Girl simultaneously tells the stories of two women separated by time, place and culture. Josephine is a house girl, a slave on a failing Virginia plantation. With her mistress in rapidly failing health, Josephine begins to orchestrate her escape into the sympathetic arms of the Underground Railroad. Lina is a present-day New York lawyer who begins work on an assignment involving slavery reparations, and her mission is to find the "perfect" living descendant to serve as plaintiff in the case. An emerging controversy surrounding the authorship of a collection of antebellum paintings may be her most promising lead.

Through the first two thirds of the book I was interested but not necessarily wowed. Then things really started to get interesting! I'm a sucker for stories involving or solving historical mysteries. When the tale took an interesting twist with merely a few dozen pages to go, I eagerly wondered how the author would manage to resolve this new question mark. In addition, there is such a high level of detail that I had to remind myself a number of times while reading that this was a work of fiction. Recommended!

ChristchurchLib Jan 22, 2014

"This debut novel offers the stories of two women - ambitious Lina Sparrow, a first-year law associate in Manhattan, and Josephine Bell, a house slave in pre-Civil War Virginia. Lina is looking for a poster-child plaintiff for a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the descendants of slaves, and that search brings her attention to Josephine, who may have been the real artist behind paintings attributed to her mistress. With a focus that shifts effortlessly between the 21st and 19th centuries, The House Girl is "assured and arresting" (Chicago Tribune)." Fiction A to Z January 2014 newsletter

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