In The House Girl by Tara Conklin we are told the story in two separate women’s voices. In the present day the protagonist is Lina Sparrow, a young attorney working on a case that involves reparations for slavery. In the storyline from the past (1852) we learn about Josephine Bell, a house slave who was owned by the Bell family.
I downloaded this book weeks ago when it was offered as an Amazon special. I didn’t start reading it until my book club decided to read it. It was fairly easy to read, but it wasn’t the type of book that demanded that I read it. I only read it on my lunch hours, and it was something I could easily set aside and go back to later. I read other books while I was reading it. It didn’t fully engage me. Perhaps it was the way the story was told – jumping back and forth from past to present, but I didn’t feel much attachment to either character.
Josephine is owned by the Bell family, and her mistress is not well. She has been kind to Josephine at times over the years and has taught her to read and write. She has also taught her how to draw and paint. Mrs. Bell is an artist, and Josephine often finishes her artwork when she is unable. In the present day the artwork is the center of the story. There is controversy over whether or not Mrs. Bell had in fact created the artwork herself or whether it was done by someone else.
The story had promise, but it didn’t quite play out the way I had hoped it would. I thought for a while that it might be a courtroom drama type story and the forensics of the artwork itself would be discussed. I like legal dramas, and I was hoping it might develop into one. Trying to focus on two different characters left the story fractured. I felt the author gave both characters short shrift. I didn’t particularly care about Lina or her father so those parts of the story dragged for me. I also did not like the ending of the story at all. I would not personally recommend it, but it has a number of glowing reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads.