Sunday, 29 September 2013

Review: The Housemaid's Daughter by Barbara Mutch

From Goodreads:

Barbara Mutch's stunning first novel tells a story of love and duty colliding on the arid plains of Apartheid-era South Africa

When Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Ireland in 1919 to travel to South Africa, she knows that she does not love the man she is to marry there —her fiance Edward, whom she has not seen for five years. Isolated and estranged in a small town in the harsh Karoo desert, her only real companions are her diary and her housemaid, and later the housemaid's daughter, Ada. When Ada is born, Cathleen recognizes in her someone she can love and respond to in a way that she cannot with her own family.Under Cathleen’s tutelage, Ada grows into an accomplished pianist and a reader who cannot resist turning the pages of the diary, discovering the secrets Cathleen sought to hide. As they grow closer, Ada sees new possibilities in front of her—a new horizon. But in one night, everything changes, and Cathleen comes home from a trip to find that Ada has disappeared, scorned by her own community. Cathleen must make a choice: should she conform to society, or search for the girl who has become closer to her than her own daughter?

My Review: 

First off, I have to tell you that I won an Advanced Reading Copy of this novel through the Goodreads First Reads program.  The description intrigued me and I thought, "Hey, why not?"   When I received this book in my mailbox last week, I was happy to have a new title to throw in my bag to take to an all day event that would allow for some free time between clients.  I will ashamedly admit that I know next to nothing about the Apartheid or the history of South Africa in general.  

The Housemaid's Daughter is a beautiful book.  It brought tears to my eyes it was so compelling & eloquently written.   It is not my typical light-hearted, quick escape romance, but a rich narrative on a remarkable relationship.  It was a deeply moving tale of love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, acceptance and shame, secrets and triumph, in a time and place when blurred lines could result in unspeakable danger.  

Barbara Mutch did an incredible job of drawing you into the lives, minds, and personalities of the characters.  You will feel like you are in the room with Ada, feel the emotions behind Cathleen's journal entries, and eventually become one of the family yourself.   This story is poignant and beautiful, at times both heartbreaking and heart warming.  My ARC copy was just over 400 pages but I read it in a day - a very busy day - that is how incredibly gripping this story is.   

The Housemaid's Daughter is scheduled for sale December 10, 2013.   Ask your library to order a copy, or order in advance online.  Read it for yourself and give a copy to your friends!  You don't want to miss it.  I highly recommend, especially for those who have enjoyed novels such as "The Help".   

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