The Housemaid's Daughter
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The Housemaid's Daughter

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  1,381 ratings  ·  278 reviews
Barbara Mutch'sstunning first novel tells a story of loveand duty collidingon 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 ina small town in the...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published December 10th 2013 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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Firebolt by Adrienne  WoodsThe Sabi by Diane  BrownThe Rose of Cavendish by Lea CherryThe Housemaid's Daughter by Barbara MutchThe Broken Destiny by Carlyle Labuschagne
Unknown and new South African Authors
3rd out of 14 books — 13 voters
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Being South African and growing up at the end of the Apartheid, I could totally relate to this story. This too was the South Africa I recall as a young teen. The park benches, public toilets and beaches with their signs "Whites Only" - a picture I still have in my head.

I found the book was very readable, but I didn't find it going anywhere fast. I found that the book went along in a straight line, and did have a hint of predictability, which was a bit disappointing.

I also found that the events...more
Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~*
Setting: 1930s-1940s

Cathleen Harrington leaves Ireland to meet her fiance in South Africa. After five years, Cathleen barely remembers him nor does she still love him. Her only friends are her house-maid Miriam , and Miriam's daughter Ada. Cathleen takes Ada under her wing,teaching her to read and play the piano.
One day Ada discovers Cathleen's journal, and curiosity compels her to read it giving Ada new insights into life and it's possibilities. Then one night everything changes, and Ada is for...more
Serendipity Reviews
Reviewed by @musingdragon on
Around once a year, I read a book like this one and just know it will stick with me for life.

Irish born Cathleen Harrington now lives in South Africa with her distracted husband and two children. Served by their faithful housemaid Miriam and her young daughter Ada, Cathleen is learning to adjust to her new life.

The novel is written from Ada’s point of view but through her interactions with Ada and surprisingly few snippets of Mrs Harring...more
I grew up in South Africa so reading this book had special meaning for me. Ada's mother could have been the housemaid who was part of our family as I grew up and my beloved housekeeper who helped me raise my children. Barbara Mutch draws a vivid word picture of life in a small Karoo town and the distinct line between the empowered White Community and the disempowered Blacks. South African Whites chose not to see their Black employees as having a life outside of their employer's home. Cathleen st...more
*spoliers* I loved the Help and after reading a few comments that this was a 'South African take' on the same theme I expected to get hooked.

However, I found Ada overwhelmingly bland and frustating. Despite suffering through the suicide of a loved one, the death of a mother, rape, abandonment by family members, racsim, prejudice and several other life-jarring events she always manages to make an objective and calm judgment on her situation. It was all a bit forced and unrealistic for my liking.

Carol E.
This story takes place in South Africa during the reign of apartheid. A maid (black) in a white household raises her daughter there, teaching her the maid duties. The daughter, Ada, grows up and the book follows Ada's life through apartheid and the struggles for liberation.

Ada is sheltered and naïve, not knowing much about her own culture. I wondered about this.. wouldn't her mother have prepared her to understand her own culture and obtain some survival skills? Ada was kind of bland and a loner...more
Tanya Brown
I loved, loved, loved this book. It is a story that spans the life of "Ada", a housemaid in Africa, during the time of apartheid. So much hardship and overwhelming kindness surround this poor woman in her struggle to be loyal to her master and perform what she feels is her "duty" and how she deals with the aftermath of her decision and what she must deal with in defending her actions and protecting those she loves. I didn't like how the timelines were not more clearly set, but everything was wra...more
Story Description:

Headline|October 23, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7553-9210-0

A South African THE HELP, THE HOUSEMAID’S DAUGHTER is a startling and thought-provoking debut novel which intricately portrays the drama, dynamics and heartbreak of two women against the backdrop of a beautiful yet divided land.

Duty and love collide on the arid plains of central South Africa. Previously released as “Karoo Plainsong” this is a fully revised debut novel.

Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Irela...more
Book Review & Giveaway: If you’ve been following our book reviews for very long, you know I love novels based in other cultures that speak to what’s really important in those cultures. What could be more pivotal to the South African culture than apartheid? And South African author Barbara Mutch’s debut novel, The Housemaid’s Daughter, deftly portrays it. At the same time, this is a novel about hope and redemption, about friendship and family – about what really makes a family. It’s historica...more
This was a very thought-provoking debut historical novel of the earlier to middle 1900's that took place in South Africa in the semi-desert area of Cradock. It covered the era of Apartheid and the beginnings of the freedom of Nelson Mandela and the struggles of the blacks and coloureds of South Africa. The protagonist was Ada, a daughter of the housemaid, in a white home of an Irish immigrant woman, Cathleen, and her family in this area of S A. The story was related in her voice.

What made this r...more
This book posed a bit of a dilemma for me when it came to it's rating. It is very well written with descriptive passages that transport you to South Africa and it's hardships relating to apartheid. However, the story is dreary with no feeling of hope at any stage, the characters, both black and white, are predictable and boring and you never quite get to know them. Their naivety throughout the story is surprising, especially as they are all educated.
Gerri Adams
I really enjoyed this read. Plenty of tears for me. I think I need to take 'Calling Me Home' off the table for now for it seems they are just too similar. I'd rather not have the emotions of both books at the same time.
Nicole Overmoyer
I need to make an admission about this book before I can properly start my review. I received the book in October and tried three times to get into. I failed every time. There's not really anything I hate more than giving up on a book before giving it a fair chance, so I sat down one more time with a renewed sense of determination.

I read the book in three days.

It is that good.

The story Mutch weaves is one that draws you in immediately. You want Ada, the housemaid's daughter, to find happiness in...more
This is the story of the relationship between "Ada", the Black African housemaid, and her employer, Catherine, the Irish madame of the house. The setting is the beginning of the apartheid era in South Africa. Many people are comparing this book to THE HELP, however, I strongly disagree. This story is much more realistic, dense, riveting, and compelling. Ada's skin causes her to live a "divided life" switching back and forth from rituals and duties of "the house" and the mean streets of oppressed...more
Peggy Hallett
I just finished reading this wonderful book... and am so sorry the story has ended. I was so captivated by it, and invested in the characters. I always love a book set in another country, another culture and another time and The Housemaid's Daughter did not disappoint. The relationships between the characters are rich. The voice of Ada as the narrator puts us easily in her shoes and we root for her throughout her hardships. I would so love to see this made into a film with Lupito Nyong'o and Ali...more
Joanne Guidoccio
Fatherless and unschooled, Ada grows up in service to the Harringtons, a family of Irish immigrants in the remote South African town of Craddock. In spite of her circumstances, Ada receives a well-rounded education from her Madam, Cathleen Harrington. Impressed by the young girl’s intelligence, Cathleen teaches Ada how to read, write and play the piano.

But not everyone is comfortable with Ada’s privileged position in the household. When Cathleen suggests enrolling Ada in school, Master Edward di...more
Sian Powell
I found this book very hard to get into and would not have persevered if it had not been a book group book. I found the character of Ada rather bland and lacking depth until she became pregnant. From this point on I was much more engaged with the book and Ada's character developed emotionally. Prior to this she just seemed to be a vessel that described what went on around her without any great depth of feeling. Dates were only sparsely mentioned throughout the book and it was sometimes difficult...more
Rose Mary Achey
Apartheid is the backdrop for The Housemaid’s Daughter. Many of us are isolated from the daily lives of individuals and families in countries undergoing a war or conflict. This book provides some light on how Apartheid affected both whites and blacks in South Africa.

In many reviews The Housemaid’s Daughter has been compared to The Help by Kathryn Stockett. While I understand this comparison, I am not sure the characters in Housemaid are as well developed as those in The Help. Like The Help, the...more
Esther Bradley-detally
I've been recuperating from a myriad issues, and there's a good aspect to that. I've been reading and reading and reading. Just when you think, oh no, not one more author to like along coms Barbara Mutch and her The Housemaids Daughter is excellent. Her first novel and remind me to add Barbara Mutch on to my list of "read all of authors works."

It's well written and about apartheid, the long years of a horrible time, and it's about love, and compassion, and bravery and hope.

I think it's a keeper!
"The Housemaid's Daughter" is a story of love, friendship, hope and deliverance set in a landscape of racial segregation,rebellion,and violence during the turbulence of the Apartheid era in South Africa.

The story revolves around Ada, a black child growing up in Cradock House, a white household in a small town in the Karoo desert. At a time when skin colour determines a person's political and economic rights, Ada's education is restricted. Taught by Cathleen Harrington, the mistress of the house,...more
Cathleen arrives in South Africa to marry a man she does not love and whom she has not seen for five years. Edward is a stiff, unemotional man and together they have two children, Rose and Phil. Phil is eventually called to war and comes back physically and emotionally wounded.

Ada, their servant, nurses Phil back to physical health but mentally he never recovers. When he dies, life at Cradock House diminishes and deteriorates.

This is Ada's story- the story of a servant girl in South Africa durin...more
Belinda Walsh
Loved this book. It took me back to the apartheid days in the 70s and 80s in SA and because of that made me a bit uncomfortable at times - but not enough to put me off reading. It's not a wildly political story but rather looks at the housemaid Ada's relationships with the various family members and more specifically the 'madam' who treats her like an equal. It's delicately written and kept me involved and interested throughout. A thoroughly good read.
Rhona Arthur
I wasn't really connected with Ada and found it hard to grasp her motivation, actions and response to consequences. She seemed incredibly naive when I would have expected her to be much more streetwise. I couldn't get my head around the characters is Madam, Master, Phil or Rosemary to whom Ada was a alter-ego; a quick, conscienceless sexual release; a target of unrequited love; and what Rosemary was supposed to be I still don't know.
This book wanted to be a lot, but it just wasn't. Oh where to start... All of the characters were flat, bland, and one dimensional. There was zero character development, especially of the main character, Ada. I can't even say she was unlikable, because she wasn't anything. Next, apartheid. Yes, this was a horrible time in South Africa's history and yes, it would have been interesting to weave into a story. However, apartheid seemed to be something the author threw in now and then just to prove t...more
Louise Hall
This is a beautifully written book with a touching and inspiring story. Told in the voice of Ada, the black daughter of a housemaid to an Irish woman living in South Africa, it is a book that will stay in your heart and mind for a very long time. It has echoes of "The Help" and "Imitation of Life". A poignant but magnificent read.
Cathleen leaves Ireland to marry her fiancé in South Africa, a man she hasn’t seen in five years and knows she doesn’t love anymore. Although she bears two children, she feels closest to her housemaid, Miriam, and later Miriam’s daughter Ada, who are both black. It is Ada who tells their story, from her childhood through World War II and beyond. Cathleen teaches Ada to play the piano beautifully, while Cathleen’s son, Phil, teaches Ada to read and write. Ada’s strong personality and will to sur...more
Amy Tabler-Yingling
Cathleen and Ada's relationship is a testament to the compassion of the human spirit to endure through many trials but still to be able to give and receive love without bitterness. I feel bad for Cathleen though because even though she has Ada she still feels estranged from her own daughter, Rose, due to their differing temperaments.

My favorite parts of the book are those about Phil and Ada, but to me they are also some of the saddest parts of the book. I almost gave up on the book entirely whe...more
Laura Lee
Excellent! Story told by black maid, Ada, with excerpts from the madam's (Cathleen) diary. The dust jacket said it best when it said it was a story of heartbreak and two women who rise above cruelty to find love, hope and redemption. Loved it. Good book club book.
Dec 23, 2013 Gisele rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
Loved it 4.75 from me. Great book but just didn't quite make it to the standards of my 5* "couldn't put it down amazing you must read it" blurb. Well worth a read, a must read in fact but just not quite 5...
Mussy Schold
This was a book that I just picked up from the shelves at the Hazen Public Library in Shirley. Set in South Africa in the Karoo, the story begins in 1930 and takes the reader almost up to the time when Nelson Mandella was set free in 1990. The story relives the tension between blacks and whites in a small town as told through the eyes of a woman whose life has been touched by both sides of the issue. The difficulties of anyone living through that time of apartheid must have been extremely stress...more
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Barbara Mutch is the author of The Housemaid's Daughter, a novel of love, hope and redemption set in the stunning Karoo landscape of South Africa.
Barbara was born and raised in South Africa, and is the granddaughter of Irish immigrants.

The Housemaid's Daughter is published in the UK and abroad by Headline, and is coming soon from St Martin's Press in the USA.

The novel has been translated into 8 l...more
More about Barbara Mutch...

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“And I remind myself that wherever one finds oneself, home and love is lent to each of us only for a while. We must care for it while it's ours, and cherish its memory once it's gone.” 5 likes
“Maybe war makes you value things and people more than you did when there was Peace and you knew there would never be a shortage?” 1 likes
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