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Friday, November 1, 2013

THE HOUSE GIRL by Tara Conklin




Josephine is a 17 year old slave in anti-bellum Virginia while Lina is a twenty something up and coming lawyer in present day NYC.  The lives of these two become entwined when a wealthy Black client of Lina’s law firm starts a “slave reparations” law suit that becomes entangled with an art dealer’s contention that Josephine is the true artist and not her widely acclaimed mistress.
Both life in a high powered law firm and life in the slave owning South are presented believably. Lina and Josephine are both sympathetic and well-drawn characters.  The story line for both is engaging. While the sub plot involving Lina’s mother is rather thin and too neatly concluded, the artistic element is a link for the two stories.
Book groups will have a variety of subjects to discuss; some very superficial and entertaining and others quite serious and profound.  Race relations now and then permeate both stories.  The question “Who is Caucasian and who is Black?” may form the body of the discussion.  The value of a piece of art and how the artist’s name recognition determines price is another point for discussion. Motherless children and how they and their families cope could form another topic.