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The House Girl by Tara Conklin

My most recent Santa Barbara Book Club pick was The House Girl by Tara Conklin.  I’m a big fan of historical fiction, though I haven’t read much from this pre-Civil War time period, so I was excited to check it out.  The narration alternates between past and present times, like one of my favorite books, The Forgotten Garden, so I had pretty high hopes for this book.  Unfortunately, those expectations may have been a bit too high.

The story follows two characters: Lina, a young attorney working on a slavery reparations case at a high powered law office in New York City.  She’s looking to find a plaintiff for her reparations case linked to a slave that will get great publicity for her case.  Through her artist father, she stumbles upon the other main character: Josephine.  Josephine is a slave whose artwork, by Lina’s time, has become famous – under the name of her mistress, Lu Anne Bell.  The story follows each character on a journey – Lina, as she learns about her missing mother, searches for the perfect plaintiff, and questions her career path.  And Josephine as she struggles to escape the bonds of slavery, despite setbacks and nearly every turn.

Overall, the story was good.  The only problem was, it didn’t seem to start until about halfway through.  The author took a very very long time setting the stage, almost unnecessarily so.  Throughout the first several chapters, I found myself asking if anything was going to actually happen.  Once Lina, the attorney, found some old letters, things really started picking up, and I was much more drawn to my kindle.  But man, it took a long time getting there!

That said, I give The House Girl 2.5 stars.  It’s not a bad read… once you’ve made it halfway through the read, that is.  ★★ 1/2

– Becca

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