The House Girl

The House Girl

Large Print - 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.

Publisher: Detroit : Gale, Cengage Learning, 2013, c2012.
Edition: Large print ed. --
ISBN: 9781410458742
Characteristics: 601 p.


From Library Staff

Thursday, October 13th, 6:30 p.m.

CatherineG_1 Sep 10, 2016

Thornhill Village Evening Book Club Selection

Thursday, October 13th, 2016.

Time: 6:30 p.m.

From the critics

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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

APlazek Oct 03, 2013

Carolina (Lina) Sparrow is a very ambitious young lawyer who is driven to achieve. She is thrilled when asked to take part in a lawsuit seeking reparations for descendents of slaves because she knows this could be just what her career needs.

Told in alternating voices with that of Jospehine Bell who was the house girl for LuAnne Bell, known as a southern artist it is revealed that Josephine in fact was the better artist.

Art historians have recently determined that they believe the LuAnn Bell paintings were actually done by her house girl and Lina is determined to track down one of her descendents to be the face of the case.

Part mystery, part history it is a well written first novel.

Sep 09, 2013

The root of this book is based on the beginnings of an American Reparations lawsuit being filed. From there the leaves of the story unfold. If you require your litigious tales to reflect reality and authority, like author John Grisham, with accuracy - this book is NOT for you. Comparatively the legalese of this author was written in crayon. This suit would purportedly be historically monumental, possibly with rewards in the trillions of dollars and would impact the nations entire view of responsibility to generations of family members of slaves...yet, the research done by the lawyers in this book was done in a matter of a few weeks and the brief was written in 4 days. Utterly ridiculous. Fortunately a very small portion of the book was used on the actual litigation preparation. Phew. If you can get past this, just suspend your legal reality momentarily you may, as I did, enjoy the bigger picture.

What I very much liked about this story in particular was the slant that the case took...When seeking reparations we often hear story of the downtrodden generations, of loss of land and property, abject poverty, homeless generation, drugs etc. This authors spin was unique in that it was in defense of a slave girl and (her families rights) to intellectual property in the form of ART. Very interesting - the hook that kept me turning pages. The story flops from an 1800s Southern Tobacco Plantation, to this century NYC - every other chapter. The slave girl, Josephine Bell was raised on the Bell plantation, as an 'almost daughter' of the lady of the house. She was in a unique situation, as a beloved house girl, in that her mistress taught her to read, did not physically abuse her and let her paint with oils and sketch with charcoals on easels alongside herself in her studio. Regrettably she was raped by her master and of course becomes pregnant. There is a journey about her mysterious birth...her desire to run...her passion for the beauty of the world and her innate instinct toward freedom. Josephine had my attention. The current day lawyer, Lina Sparrow, is freshly out of school, striving to make a difference, seeking to be a legal partner and willing to pay her dues. She had my attention as well. Lina reaches her cotton-gloved hand through the decades to find and reconstruct the missing pieces of Josphine's legacy. (There are a few side stories which I did not need...Lina's potential new love, Lina's eccentric artist father, the perplexing death of her mother...there may be some deeper level moral ties in here somewhere, but if so, it was lost on me.) We have cut heels, sterile board rooms, Lottie, mothers lost, mothers sold, psudeomothers inherited, birth, death, blood, grief, joy. Running. The Blue Ridge mountains, men on horses, men in shackles, men in french cuffs. A spindly tale in parts and brilliant in others. Overall a very good read. Caused reflection.

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