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 Harrington’s diary, the reader grasps the character of this truly selfless lady that will be so influential on Ada’s life. Following Ada’s journey from childhood to adult and mother we experience her first tragic love for Cathleen’s son Phil, her pleasure in playing the piano, her rejection by both whites and blacks when she conceives a child which fits with neither. We experience the tumultuous emotions; fear, love, rejoicing for Ada’s exotic and wilful daughter Dawn. It’s a story of dancing and music, hope and love, revolution and courage.
The cover compares the novel to The Help, but I think this just doesn’t do the book justice. Yes they both feature black housemaids serving white families, but where The Help portrays a group of maids united in vengeance against a common (white) enemy, The Housemaid’s Daughter is the story of the most forbidden of friendships, flowering despite the harshest conditions. The love and respect between Mrs Harrington and Ada conquers all barriers except death.
One thing just didn’t ring true for me; Ada welcoming her ‘Master’ to her bed with seemingly open arms. As a young girl with no sexual experience, surely the first emotion would be fear, especially considering he has never shown any particular warmth towards her. The ongoing belief throughout the rest of the book that this circumstance was ‘her duty’ to him in his misery and loneliness still lacks something for me. Possibly I have misjudged the attitude of servants at this time to their white families.
The interesting thing about this novel is just how visibly you can see the author growing with her main character. It’s like she’s learning to love Ada along with us. At first it’s hesitant, perhaps overly detailed too soon, but as a big fan of South Africa flaws and all, I just love the detail that went into this novel, from the delicate pink roses in the Harrington’s gardens, to the dirty angry Groot Vis river, to the sound of rain on Ada’s corrugated iron roof and the feel of it between her toes.
If you’re like me and love historical novels with a personal touch, you’ll adore this captivating debut. (less)
Reviewed by Sophie Duffy on www.serendipityreviews.co.uk What a sweet, charming, yet unslushy novel. I really enjoyed this one and found myself virtual...moreReviewed by Sophie Duffy on www.serendipityreviews.co.uk What a sweet, charming, yet unslushy novel. I really enjoyed this one and found myself virtually transported to Henley, aka Middle-of-Nowhere Maine, and totally wrapped up in a touching soulmate-meets-soulmate story.
This is a modern day romance with its use of email as a means of finding love and keeping it. It’s not a dating website or anything dodgy, just a random, serendipitous email from Graham that goes astray from its intended recipient and ends up in Ellie’s inbox.
They immediately form a close connection, saying things to each other that they cannot say to anyone else. They email every day, several times a day, but neither of them reveals their deepest secret
to each other. Not until Graham orchestrates a visit to Henley and they develop their relationship in person.
Only then does Ellie find out that Graham is not just ordinary Graham. He is teen film star Graham Larkin, with his own management and fans and his every move snapped by the Paparazzi. And to make life more complicated, Ellie and her mum are in hiding from her father, a man famous for quite a different reason. They must keep their now very real romance under wraps.
This is Jennifer E. Smith’s fourth YA novel, one of the others being the critically acclaimed and highly popular The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. She writes in clean, sharp prose and isn’t afraid to delve deep into the character’s thoughts and backstory. She brings the small town American landscape to life with its quirky traditions, shops and restaurants and lots of lobsters.
Following in the tradition of You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle and Notting Hill, and with two vivid main characters and a strong supporting cast, this is a warm, equally-balanced romance. This is reflected in the narration as the story is told from dual perspectives, flipping from Ellie to Graham, chapter by chapter, reminiscent of David Nicholls One Day. The email sections add another layer and keep the pace flowing as there is quite a bit of introspection. It is this introspection that brings emotional depth to the characters and has the reader gunning for both of them.
This is what Happy Looks Like explores the intimate details of family life and relationships and the ups and downs of friendships made over many years and the connections that can be created out of nowhere.
One email, one summer, one tricky situation … who knows where it will end? Though we know that ‘happy’ can be as simple as an ice cream or the waves on the shore or a pet pig called Wilbur.