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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

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.…

The House Girl

by Tara Conklin

Overall Book Review:

The House Girl is a beautifully-delivered tale that will keep readers turning pages well into the night. 

An attorney herself, Ms. Conklin definitely knows the ins and outs of the legal profession, and puts that knowledge to good use. Ironically, it is the historical voice of Josephine that is better developed, more believable, and much more lyrical. It’s almost as if Conklin’s experience blunts her ability to tell a story set in her own world. That said, this story is still well done and definitely worth reading. 

I very much enjoyed the stories on their own, and the way they intertwined was exciting, suspenseful, and surprising. The House Girl makes me want to take a closer look at my own antebellum roots–not to romanticize slavery, but to better connect with humanity across the generations. This is the kind of book that helps us do just that.

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  7 religious exclamations; 3 mild obscenities; 2 religious obscenities; 2 derogatory names; 12 scatological words; 2 anatomical terms; 3 f-word derivatives.

Violence/Gore:  A character is slapped across the face; a character’s heels are cut to prevent him from running with few details; a person is known to have been killed in a car crash, described (twice) in varying degrees of detail; a person is alleged to have beaten other people with few details; a character purposely cuts herself with some detail; a character is severely whipped with some detail; a character describes the violent consequences of being caught as a runaway slave; a person is reported to have been strangled to death; 2 people are reported to have been whipped to death; a person is reported to have been killed in some detail; reports of the killing of abolitionists are given with no details; animals are reported to have been killed in a fire with some detail; a character is threatened with rape or beating; a character is found beaten severely with some description; a character claims that his father beat him and his brother; a character dies in childbirth with few details; a character is found after committing suicide in a violent way.

Sex/Nudity:  A character remembers being raped repeatedly with no details; atrocities of slavery are categorized in a table, including physical and sexual abuse; a character is known to have raped two slaves; characters are known to have conducted extramarital affairs; nude artwork is displayed and described in some detail; characters kiss briefly (twice); characters flirt (4 times); pornography is referred to.

Mature Subject Matter:

Death of family members, suicide, slavery.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Adults drink alcohol socially; marijuana use is referred to.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. My mother would often find me curled up in a corner, avoiding chores with a book–or two. When I was growing up, there wasn’t a large selection of YA books. I had children’s books and adult literature to choose from. I’ve come to love YA fiction as an adult and read almost nothing else when I read for pleasure–any genre will do.