I'm a costume designer, makeup artist, teacher, mom, knitter, baker, want-to-learn-how-to-do-it-all

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I'm a costume designer, makeup artist, teacher, mom, sewer, knitter, baker, want-to-learn-how-to-do-it-all, blogging, Costumed Beagle enthusiast. I am not always pleasant, although through intensive cupcake therapy I have learned not to throw knives at people anymore.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Book Review: The House Girl

The House Girl
by Tara Conklin

I wish on Goodreads it had a section where you marked who or where you got your book recommendations from...because most of the time, by the time I get to reading one of the 4,000 books I want to read, I can no longer remember, and when you get a hold of good book, you want to go back and see what else that person has to recommend.

I liked this book.  Split into two parts, the first being the life of Josephine, a seventeen year old slave girl in 1852 (the house girl) and the second a young ambitious attorney in current day.  I often don't like when books jump around from one world to the next...you know they are setting you up for some big forced reveal and typically, you know what it is long before you get there.  I won't say that this book doesn't have that, or that I didn't know exactly what it was before it happened (why are we so much smarter than the people in the books!  Didn't they see it coming??) but that somehow, this one just didn't seem quite so manipulated.  Maybe it was because the characters themselves were quite compelling.

Josephine, who we didn't quite spend enough time getting to know, lets us know from almost the first page that she is going to run.  Her relationship with her "missus" is complicated; she's been taught to read and spends time helping her missus with her art; she keeps the missus company and offers her comfort after losing baby after baby.

Jumping to Lina, the attorney, we learn from research within one of Lina's cases that Lu Anne Bell, the missus of more than 150 year prior, is a venerated artist who captured life as a slave on a plantation in the deep south.  Lina also happens to be the daughter of an artist, of two artists really, one of which died when she was still quite young.

We know that these two lives will intersect somehow, and the author does a great job weaving a compelling story.  I've always had a fascination with this ugly part of our nation's history, perhaps because my own family lore consists of stories of Quakers along the underground railroad with hidden compartments behind fireplaces and the like.  It is easier to stomach something so terribly terribly wrong if you believe your people were the good guys and put their own lives at risk to help another soul.

In all, a good read.  Quick and uncomplicated, would recommend as a good summer read or book club book.  It is the perfect book when you don't want anything to deep or hard, but also don't really want to go all in for trashy romances or mysteries.  I wished in the end, that less time was spent crafting a "good book" and that the author had just let Josephine tell her story, but the context in which she sets it is compelling and is probably more consumable.

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