The House Girl

TITLE:  The House Girl

AUTHOR: Tara Conklin

GENRE:  Adult Fiction, Historic Fiction and Mystery

RATING: 3.5/5

SETTING(S) :  21st Century, New York & 1845 – 1850’s, Virginia

SUBJECT:  Slavery, Art, Women, Mystery, History, Law and Family

MAIN CHARACTERS:  Carolina “Lina” Sparrow,  Josephine, 17-Year-Old, Artist, Lu Anne Bell and Oscar Sparrow


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?

Via: Good Reads



This was a very interesting book that I had to continually remind myself that it was a work of fiction.  It is something that is very believable, except there were very few 19th Century women artists especially ones living in the American South.  This books is for anyone who loves books who offer strong women characters, a realistic plot and plays with historic themes and or time period.

The book is placed during the late 1840s to 1853 when there was possibly no hope for African Slaves. The book does not have a lot of graphic detail which makes it more compelling to read, so a reader does not have to sift through countless facts, scenes and so forth.  It is a long book, due to focusing on two key characters “Lina” a modern 21st century lawyer in her late 20’s and Josephine a 17 year old house slave.  Lina is a young woman trying to find out and piecing the puzzle that is Josephine.   While you learn about Josephine’s life through her own eyes you also learn about her life through the bits and pieces of written documents that Lina finds to determine if Josephine was ever to achieve freedom.

It is so much like trying to figure out someone’s ancestry and how far back you can go in order to figure out  their family’s past.  The ups and downs a person has to go through in order to figure out the whole story.  It is a great read for long trips.  I would not say it is a book that you could read in a weekend, maybe in two weekends.