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.
Sabrina-Kate - 2 Star
I had heard a lot about The House Girl and ultimately was very interested in reading it as it seemed like a very intriguing story that was also getting rave reviews.
Unfortunately, I didn't particularly enjoy the book as I found that it skipped around between characters and even eras a little too frequently for my liking. It wasn't that it was confusing as it sometimes is when this happens during a story, but rather that it broke the continuity and made the story less enjoyable as every break made me feel like I had to get acquainted with the characters again.
The story was good in theory, however I also felt that at the end things got wrapped up a little too conveniently or abruptly. I felt like Conklin had a good idea of how to conclude this tale but then executed the ending in a very short time frame.
The characters themselves seemed a little bit underdeveloped at times and I couldn't get into them. When I read, I typically like to delve into the story and people within and I like to find a character that I make my own yet this was impossible for me in this book.
I feel like Conklin has great capabilities yet tried to sometimes do too much during the story and add too many elements that weakened the overall strength of the story. Little details that reoccurred yet did not seem necessary for example.
I can say that The House Girl was interesting but didn't grab me like I wished it had.
Thank you to William Morrow for our review copy. All opinions are our own.
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