The House Girl by Tara Conklin
A Novel

70%

29 Critic Reviews

Still her depth of feeling in and for these meaty characters, which also tie into missing pieces in her own family background, make for fascinating reading. It becomes a book you simply cannot put down!
-Washington Times

Synopsis

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.

 

About Tara Conklin

See more books from this Author
Tara Conklin has worked as a litigator in the New York and London offices of a major corporate law firm but now devotes her time to writing fiction. She received a BA in history from Yale University, a JD from New York University School of Law, and a Master of Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School (Tufts University). Tara Conklin's short fiction has appeared in the Bristol Prize Anthology and the Pangea International Anthology. Born in St. Croix, she grew up in Massachusetts and now lives with her family in Seattle, Washington.
 
Published February 12, 2013 by William Morrow. 389 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
icon12
Peak Rank on Mar 02 2014
icon1
Weeks as Bestseller
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The House Girl
All: 29 | Positive: 21 | Negative: 8

Kirkus

Below average
on Dec 03 2012

But while Conklin clearly knows her way around the legal world, her lawyer, Lina, comes across more as a sketch than a portrait, and the choices she makes are boringly predictable. Provocative issues of race and gender intertwine in earnest if uneven issues-oriented fiction.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Below average
on Jan 14 2013

Alternating between Lina and Josephine, this novel is unfortunately trite, predictable, and insensitive at its core: the lives of a 19th-century black slave and a 21st-century white lawyer are not simply comparable...Striving for affecting revelations, Conklin manages nothing more than unsatisfying platitudes and smugly pat realizations.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Book Reporter

Above average
Reviewed by Melanie Smith on Dec 01 2013

THE HOUSE GIRL is a thoughtful work of fiction about freedom, love, and the continued price for former slaves with modern descendants. Conklin creates a convincing case of an unrecognized injustice with a novel that is both legalistic and artistic. This is a story of personal and national identity that you won’t want to miss.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Melissa Maerz on Feb 08 2013

The first chapter of The House Girl grabs you by the bonnet strings and starts running. It's 1852, and Josephine, a young slave, has just planned a daring escape from a farm.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Washington Independent Review of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Gerry Hogan on Feb 22 2013

One suspects that Conklin did extensive historical research and, upon doing so, used head and heart to find each voice, to inhabit truly these characters...The novel is a page-turner and a genealogical detective story, and as Lina grows in investigative skill and resolve, Conklin achieves a brilliant fusion of characterization and storyline.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

NY Daily News

Above average
Reviewed by Sherryl Connelly on Feb 17 2013

“The House Girl” is absorbing fiction, a first novel from a former litigator, who buttresses her legal savvy with strong historical research. She also has a fine way with a story, more particularly on display in Josephine’s urgent tale.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

BookDragon

Below average
Reviewed by BookDragon on Jun 26 2013

Sounds promising, right? Alas, the dual stories often felt like dueling narratives, wavering between high-brow social treatise and soap opera-like antics (including even a dead mother who comes back to life!). Curiosity kept me reading, yes … but finishing got me thinking …

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Washington Times

Above average
Reviewed by Martha M. Boltz on Mar 04 2013

Still her depth of feeling in and for these meaty characters, which also tie into missing pieces in her own family background, make for fascinating reading. It becomes a book you simply cannot put down!

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel | See more reviews from Washington Times

Black Books and Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Donna Williams Vance on Feb 22 2014

From the abruptness of the first sentence through the compassion of the last, Conklin’s “The House Girl” has the reader rapt and baited for the stories that lay ahead...There begins our fulfilling relationship with Josephine, Lina and this thoughtful book.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Luxury Reading

Good
Reviewed by Colleen Turner on Dec 23 2013

While I won’t say that the story wraps up in a pretty, happy bow I will say that it leaves off with the feeling of hope for a better future if one is willing to let go of the past and fight for the future they want....With The House Girl, Ms. Conklin makes the reader face all of these facts head on and does a wonderful job in doing so.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Booking Mama

Below average
Reviewed by Julie P. on Mar 04 2013

The truth is that I liked it okay, but I certainly didn't love it.... I struggled to get into the novel and Lina's character didn't resonate with me at all. And then, once I felt as if I got to understand and even like Lina, her personal story took some drastic turns, and I'm not sure all of the plot lines were fully explored.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Rhapsody in Books

Above average
on Feb 11 2013

The intertwined stories of this book are definitely compelling, even if there are some plausibility issues, especially in the Lina sections of the book.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Before It's News

Above average
Reviewed by Sue Jackson on Jan 24 2014

There were some surprising plot twists (though not the one that I expected from the beginning!), and the story moves along at a fast pace. Everyone in my book group enjoyed The House Girl, and it got one of our highest group ratings ever!

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

The Blue Bookcase

Good
Reviewed by Ingrid on Feb 27 2013

I was caught up in the emotional catches and dilemmas of the characters right away, without even thinking about it. I cared about them and I felt I understood them. The structure of the book made it exciting to make little discoveries and connections when something comes up in one narrative that points to the other. It was satisfying.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Lit Stack

Above average
Reviewed by Sharon Browning on Jul 26 2013

And the circumstances, outcome, and literary eloquence of the smoking gun journal are far too fantastic...This isn’t to suggest that The House Girl is not a worthwhile and enlightening read – it is. But be aware that, as the novel progresses, a healthy suspension of disbelief will be needed...

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Leeswammes' Blog

Good
Reviewed by Judith on Feb 28 2013

This book started really very good and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It was well written and the historical and modern parts contrasted beautifully. The story about Josephine was a sad one, but also one of languid days, fresh air and fields all around. The modern city life is all about making money and standing out from amongst your colleagues.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

BookNAround

Above average
Reviewed by Kristen on Dec 05 2013

There are interesting themes in the novel, that of the personal and political connections to art, family and truth, the search for self, origins and provenance, and the complications of history to name just some and because of that the book is a good read if not a great one.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

A Bookish Affair

Above average
Reviewed by Meg on Nov 07 2013

Aside from the character stories, there was a lot to think about with this book. Obviously, there is the subject of slavery. Josephine is a slave in Virginia...It was really interesting to see life through her eyes. There were some really interesting details that I know my fellow historical fiction lovers are going to enjoy.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

http://blogs.slj.com

Good
Reviewed by Angela Carstensen on Mar 05 2013

When I picked up this book I approached it with a semi-open mind and quickly had my skepticism blown away. Conklin has created a story which is exciting, moving and cynically realistic. Clearly her years as an attorney helped her write a credible story...But her real gift is the way she handles issues around race.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Reads 4 Pleasure

Good
Reviewed by Read for Pleasure on Feb 13 2013

I was much more fascinated with Josephine's story than I was with Lina's, though I can appreciate that Lina's research brought me Josephine's story. Equally as fascinating was Garrison's lack of desire to work on the reparation case...

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Mrs. Q Book Addict

Good
Reviewed by Jennifer on Feb 26 2013

Conklin’s debut novel is a great read, her attention to detail is superb. The dual stories work well, and readers will enjoy both...Overall, I thought it was a very enjoyable read and I do recommend it.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Literary Hoarders

Good
Reviewed by Penny on Jan 30 2013

Alternating between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing tale of art and history, love and secrets explores what it means to repair a wrong, and ask whether truth is sometimes more important than justice.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

A Bookish Way of Life

Good
Reviewed by Nadia A on Nov 26 2013

This book is just too good for me to ruin for you by telling you everything that happens! You have to read it for yourself and get lost in Conklin's amazing story about two strong and determined women.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Reviewed by Mom

Above average
Reviewed by Kristin Jordan on Nov 04 2013

I loved this book!The author did a flawless job of switching between the two time periods and giving life to her characters. I would find myself so deeply involved in one woman's story that I wouldn't want it to be time to switch over and then be in the same situation, only reversed the next time!

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Utah Mom's Life

Above average
Reviewed by Cindi on Dec 20 2012

Well written with superb attention to detail and a wonderful ability to make scenes come to life, The House Girl tells the stories of two women--Josephina, the artistically talented house slave in Virginia and Lina, the ladder-climbing young attorney in New York City.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Lavish Bookshelf

Good
Reviewed by Pamela on Nov 15 2013

As a debut novel though, this really is a good book overall. The characters are interesting, although I did like the slave Josephine as a lead character much more than I liked Lina. I do hope Tara Conklin writes more stories with the same amount of historical research but with a lot fewer detailed descriptions.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Muse Reviews

Above average
Reviewed by Megret on Feb 26 2013

I couldn’t put this book down once I started it. It is a wonderful story that drew me in, the history-lover (and research enthusiast) that I am. Anyone who digs ancestral research and putting pieces together in historical puzzles will adore this book.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Me, You, and Books

Below average
Reviewed by Marilyn on Dec 16 2012

While Conklin is a good writer, the summary of her plots suggests the problems in the book. At first the shifts between the plots flow smoothly, but as tension rises in both, the plots compete rather than complement each other. Too much is going on. As a reader I came to resent interrupting the suspense of one story to go to the other.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

http://roanokevalleywoman.com

Above average
Reviewed by Roanoke Valley Woman on Feb 20 2013

Author Tara Conklin does an excellent job weaving two divergent stories together, connecting threads that strengthen as the story goes along. I particularly loved Josephine, perhaps because her quiet thoughts spoke so loudly.

Read Full Review of The House Girl: A Novel

Reader Rating for The House Girl
79%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 1872 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review

Reader reviews & activity

Malinda Charter

Malinda Charter 22 Jul 2014

Added the book to custom list '2013 NPR'

×