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The Housemaid's Daughter

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  3,142 Ratings  ·  505 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published December 10th 2013 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2010)
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Apr 14, 2013 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~*
Feb 07, 2014 Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* rated it really liked it
Shelves: womans-fiction
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
Apr 19, 2013 Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 21, 2013 Adellet rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
*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.

Dec 06, 2012 Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 06, 2014 Sara rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2014-reads
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
Carol E.
Oct 30, 2013 Carol E. rated it liked it
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
Tanya Brown
Apr 30, 2013 Tanya Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 21, 2017 Vesela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, drama, 2017
Отдавна не ми се беше случвало книга да премине през всички оценки - от "зарязвам я!" през 2* (което за мен реално е едно ниво над *супер-зле*) до 3,5*/5*.
Окончателната ми оценка е: книгата ми хареса! Хареса ми образът на главната героиня (Ада) и нейното израстване на фона на бурните събития през годините на апартейда в Южноафриканската република. Научих много неща за това време и за живота в тази държава.
Имаше неща, които ме дразнеха, но като цяло впечатленията ми от книгата са положителни.
Dec 19, 2013 Irene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-africa, read-again
This is a beautifully written story and from the beginning invites you into its pages.
There is so much to discover. It is about relationships, duty, submission, rejection and acceptance and about love.
It is set in the beautiful and wonderful Karoo which the author paints with her words and Ada adds the music.
At times I listened to Chopin's Raindrop to further enhance the experience and to capture Ada's mood. In my opinion this book describes life in South Africa during this period more accuratel
Mar 13, 2013 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Vanessa Tekać
Jul 22, 2015 Vanessa Tekać rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Predivna prica o prijateljstvu koje se prenosi s generacije na generaciju, i to u vrijeme kad je takav odnos bio nezamisliv izmedju ljudi razlicite boje koze! Zadnja dva-tri poglavlja sam se sva najezila i uzivala u, iako tuznom, odlicnom kraju price. Za 5 plus! :)
Tempo de Ler
Oct 01, 2014 Tempo de Ler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A apreciação de outrem - se é que alguma nos deveria sequer ser admitida - deveria ter em conta A Cor do Coração e nunca a cor da pele. Infelizmente, sabemos que não foi assim no passado e, o que é ainda mais angustiante, não é assim na actualidade.

Retrocedendo até uma época vergonhosa, quando a segregação racial foi legitimada na África do Sul, a autora, Barbara Mutch, faz um óptimo trabalho a destacar a importância dos valores morais de cada indivíduo, evidenciando o elevado custo que a falta
May 17, 2013 Sandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book successfully dropped me into South Africa as apartheid gripped the region. Ada was born in Craddock House, the daughter of the black housemaid to Irish immigrants. Cathleen (the Madam of the house), alienated from her own daughter, gravitated toward the young girl, teaching her to read and fostering a love for and ability with the piano. The novel followed Ada through the nursing of the young son of the household who returned from war broken in spirit; through her mothering of a “colou ...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
Gerri Adams
Dec 22, 2013 Gerri Adams rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-book-club
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.
Dec 11, 2013 Margaret rated it really liked it
An excellent book. Sad and moving especially as it is based on true events. A book that was hard to put down
Jul 12, 2014 Judith rated it really liked it
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
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
Nicole Overmoyer
Dec 29, 2013 Nicole Overmoyer rated it really liked it
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
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
Jan 16, 2015 Julie rated it it was amazing
I have just finished this book and have to get my thoughts into paper while I'm still buzzing from the read. Please read this novel if you like beautiful writing and insight into the hearts and minds of others. The book is about relationships between black and white before and during the turbulent apartheid period in South African history.
Whilst I grew up knowing the evil of apartheid from my safe English home, it's raw evil and brutality was fully revealed in this book. Sadly, the world doesn'
Nora Peevy
Mar 31, 2015 Nora Peevy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Words escape me. How to explain this transforming novel. The characters find a home in your heart and when they're ripped out or in pain, you bleed with them. Her graphic and accurate storytelling resonates with anyone who has ever longed for freedom or a safe home for their children or peace, not war and torture and discrimination.

This book starts right before apartheid in South Africa and follows a white immigrant family from Ireland and her black maid's family and friendship with the lady of
My full review can be found on my blog: NovelTeaseReview

First off, I have to tell you that I won an Advanced Reading Copy of this novel through the Goodreads First Reads program.

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, s
Ariel Bartlett
Dec 12, 2013 Ariel Bartlett rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. The cover and title do not do it justice at all—this book is no easy, fluffy chick lit. It's a hard novel about racial discrimination in South Africa during apartheid. Ada grows up in Cradock House, where she and her mother are servants. The Madam, Cathleen, treats Ada as a daughter, teaching her to read and to play the piano when the local school refuses to let Ada attend. After Ada's mother has died and when Cathleen goes away on a trip, the Master comes to Ada. The ...more
Jan 16, 2015 Lightblue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Housemaid’s Daughter
Una delicatissima storia che dimostra come anche nelle peggiori situazioni politiche e sociali l'amore e l'amicizia possano riuscire a cancellare l'odio e la cattiveria. Ambientato nel Sudafrica degli anni '30, racconta la storia di Ada e di Cath, una nera e l'altra bianca. Una domestica e l'altra padrona, ma entrambe accomunate dalla passione per la musica classica e per il pianoforte. La musica sarà più forte delle barriere, del razzismo, della violenza e delle incompre
RoseMary Achey
Jan 07, 2014 RoseMary Achey rated it really liked it
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
Mar 26, 2014 Andrea rated it it was amazing
I simply devoured this novel. I could not put it down. This was a fascinating read for me about the beginnings of apartheid in a small town in South Africa during the 1940's and 1950's(a time period and place I have not read about before). Ada was a simply beautiful character. Some readers complained with how flat her emotions were at times, but I don't get the complaints, she was a young naïve girl who lived in a rather insular world for a long time. I hated Miss Rose the most---such a characte ...more
Rose Klix
Sep 04, 2016 Rose Klix rated it it was amazing
Ada is a quiet heroine not only in the book, but for the apartheid. She is a gentle spirit who balances the cruelty of divisions over "skin" with the supportive people in her life. I don't often champion books about racial issues. I get very discouraged our world has not overcome this issue. Some people (especially white people) see themselves as superior. While those of color just want what we all want - respect and love.
The book is a well-written character driven novel with historic significan
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Barbara Mutch is the author of two novels. The first, The Housemaid's Daughter, a novel of love, hope and redemption, is set in the stunning Karoo landscape of South Africa. Her second, The Girl from Simon's Bay, will be published on 19th January 2017. It follows a forbidden romance set in the picturesque port of Simon's Town at the foot of Africa, during the Second World War. Can Louise and David ...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.” 7 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?” 0 likes
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