Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The House Girl” as Want to Read:
The House Girl
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Excerpt

The House Girl

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  57,177 ratings  ·  5,453 reviews
A stunning debut novel of love, family, and justice that intertwines the stories of an escaped house slave in 1852 Virginia and ambitious young lawyer in contemporary New York

Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell.

New York City,
Hardcover, 370 pages
Published February 12th 2013 by William Morrow
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The House Girl, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Sheila Watt I am not sure exactly what you mean about how you can read the full book. I THINK you may have started to read a sample of the book on an online site.…moreI am not sure exactly what you mean about how you can read the full book. I THINK you may have started to read a sample of the book on an online site. If that is what you did, it would not have the full book. There are many ways to get the full book:
1: Join your city library and check it out.
2. Once you join a library, you can often download the book and read it from your ipad or any tablet.
3. You can buy the book on Amazon or in a book store.
4. You can buy kindle Unlimited on amazon and for $10 per month you can borrow it for as long as you want it. And you can borrow as many books as you wish, for a long as you want.

Good luck to you! Keep reading!

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  57,177 ratings  ·  5,453 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The House Girl
Diane Yannick
Mar 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
I liked the beginning of this book and thought it had a lot of promise. I liked the way the two stories were set during slavery and the present. I often like dual narration and get absorbed by two different viewpoints. I like the topic of slave reparations, wondering at the outset how we could ever be so arrogant as to think we could repair our actions in any meaningful way. I expected the author to give me some food for thought.

Instead it just progressively annoyed me until I had to force mysel
Oct 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
Feeling a little guilty by not explaining my 1 star rating, so here is my review that I submitted to Amazon:

Outstanding ratings, historical fiction, captivating subject; on all counts I should have loved this book. Unfortunately, the writer's narrative descriptions were unbearable. She describes everything in laborious detail, even the most inane subjects and banal situations. Don't get me wrong, I love descriptive writing, but this was complete overkill. Here is an excerpt from Conklin's descri
Apr 25, 2013 rated it liked it
I don't often review a book but I have to say something about this one. I just have to wonder about all the 4-star and 5-star ratings here. This book is readable, certainly, but not at all the page-turner I expected from hearing others idolize it. The present-day character, Lina, is a lawyer in a high-powered NY firm looking for a plaintiff to represent a class-action lawsuit on behalf of slaves brought to the United States who were, obviously, never compensated for their work. The book moves be ...more
Angela M
Nov 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cgca-2013-14
It's hard to believe that this is a debut novel . Tara Conklin has beautifully written an emotional story of a young woman slave in Virginia in 1852 and skillfully connects that story to a young woman , an attorney living in present day New York City . She brings history to life with Josephine's story and we see the cruelties of slavery , the desire for freedom, and the courageous fight for it . I love the alternating narratives of Josephine and Lina and how Lina's story helps unfold the story o ...more
Nov 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
I received an advanced reader's copy of this book and I am fairly certain that no one will ever let me win a giveaway again after this review.

This book is very very bad.

In a book about slavery and reparations, I do not think it would be out of line to expand descriptions of key characters beyond "dark" and "pale". One main character has dark eyes and black hair; her mom has dark hair and pale skin and dark/green eyes; her dad has dark frazzled hair and blue eyes; someone has dark eyebrows, dea
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Tonight. Now.

It did not shake her, what Nathan had said. Freedom was a curious thing. Were the chickens free, running their fool heads off in the yard? The horse, that still must fit the bit between its teeth? Was Missus free? But what else to dream for? There was no dream of Josephine’s that did not contain a place where she might sit and look upon a field or a bird in flight or a person and ponder the lines of that thing, to capture them in pencil or charcoal or ink or pigment. Just to sit for
Mar 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 08, 2013 rated it did not like it
I felt annoyed by this book. The law suite was impossible and ridiculous. It was like the author started the first half of the book thinking it was a great idea and then through her own research realized it was never going to pan out. Instead of re-writing the whole story she simply used one of her characters to explain why the law suit wasn't going to work and from that point on in the book the author had to change her perspective and create a new reason for the modern day side of the story to ...more
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Full Disclosure: I went to high school with Tara but haven't seen her since we graduated.

It was an odd experience to read a book by someone with whom I was a teenager. I spent the first few pages being overly judgmental about grammar and comma placement (Sorry, Tara!). But within about five or six pages it stopped being about High-School-Friend-now-Author Tara and all about the characters and the story.

This first novel tells the powerful and compelling story of Josephine, a slave in Virginia in
Oct 19, 2012 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I liked the clever linkage of two stories across time, but I wasn’t overwhelmed on their emotional engagement and the scope of overall themes. Lina is a NYC young lawyer (like the author) who gets tasked with finding a profile case for a class action lawsuit against the government and companies that benefited from slavery. Through her art world connections she comes across the case of a house slave, Josephine, who may have been the creative force behind the wonderful and pricey paintings by the ...more
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I very much enjoyed The House Girl. Tara Conklin has previously published short fiction but this is her first novel.

I think Conklin is a great story teller and did a good job of fully utilizing her background in both history and law to really draw me into the book. The book is categorized as historical fiction and it also has a legal slant. It is the story of two young women, who share many similarities and grew up 150 years apart. Josephine was born in Virginia in about 1835, born a black slav
Tara Conklin
Nov 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
“Tara Conklin’s wise, stirring and assured debut tells the story of two extraordinary women, living a century apart, but joined by their ferocity of spirit. From page one, I fell under the spell of THE HOUSE GIRL’s sensuous prose and was frantically turning pages until its thrilling conclusion.” - Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette

“THE HOUSE GIRL is an enthralling story of identity and social justice told through the eyes of two indomitable women, one a slave and the other a mode
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Jul 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What an incredible book! Set simultaneously in 1850s Virginia and New York City (2004) and telling the stories of slave-girl Josephine and lawyer Lina, this may be the best dual-period book I’ve ever read. Debut author Tara Conklin weaves two separate stories together like a beautiful tapestry, the past and the present blended artfully and skillfully.

This is a story about art, and the power of brushstrokes to heal broken hearts from different worlds, different time periods. It’s a story about in
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle
Alternating chapters tell the stories of two women. In 1853, Josephine Bell, a seventeen-year-old slave on a Virginian tobacco plantation, plans her escape to freedom. In New York in 2004, Lina Sparrow, a young attorney, is looking for a good lead plaintiff for a class action suit seeking reparation for the descendants of American slaves. The two stories intersect when Lina hears about a folk artist whose paintings are thought to actually be the work of her house girl Josephine. Lina sets out to ...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Conklin is yet another lawyer-turned-novelist which makes me, once more, contemplate law school as a way to get my writer-ly career going.

This is a complex novel that develops slowly but not ponderously, threaded with various plot lines that knit together neatly, and some deep, painful emotions handled without melodrama.

Opening in 1852, Virginia slave Josephine Bell decides to runaway from the plantation where she is kept, her sick mistress fading away like the collapsing farm where she lives
✨Sumi's Books✨
Sep 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
Confusing and poorly done...
So Josephine is a slave girl who is taking care of her mistress who is an aspiring artist. Lina is a high-power attorney in New York City who is discovering secrets about her family's past. These two stories are tied together by a very thin thread.
I don't really care for Lina's story. It is boring and not really that believable. She's a high-power attorney and leaves the mystery of her mother's death to her father who is not speaking about it at all instead of finding
Connie G
On an antebellum Virginia tobacco farm, house slave Josephine took care of her sickly mistress Lu Anne Bell. Lu Anne enjoyed painting and often gave Josephine access to her painting supplies. In 2004 a New York gallery is showing the paintings of Lu Anne Bell. Famous art historians are saying that the artworks were painted by two different people, and are attributing the better paintings to Josephine.

Lina Sparrow is an attorney at a prestigious New York law firm, working long hours and hoping to
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed House Girl by Tara Conklin. The subject matter (reparation for blacks/African Americans) is one that I've always been interested in...but this is the first time, I'm aware, that it's ever been taken on in a novel. Conklin wrote parrallel stories, one that transported us back to the 1800 when slavery was still alive and well, the other during modern day. The transitions were seamless and it was easy to flashback or move forward without getting lose. I must admit I'm generally pis ...more
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
The House Girl is a novel in the historical fiction genre that follows the formula of a present day story alternating chapters with a historical back story. It's not a bad book, it's just not breaking any new ground. The back story is pretty basic, with a young house slave named Josephine who dreams of running away to freedom. It's fine, it's readable, it's heartfelt. The present day story centers on a young lawyer who is given the opportunity to work on a potentially enormous and explosive clas ...more
Virginia Myers
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing

My review is based on the soft back edition of this book which I received free from the publisher as an “Advance Readers Edition” in exchange for the promise that I would write a review.

Unlike many books where it takes several chapters before you are drawn into the story, I was immediately captivated by this book. The primary message in the book for me was the comparison between the hopes and dreams of two girls. One was a modern day smart young white female lawyer raised by a single father who
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
I had been interested in this book because the cover art is so beautiful, so when I saw it in the library & it was a selection for one of my bookclubs, I quickly picked it up. It is a story that initially has two main characters - Josephine, who is a house girl in the 1800's in Virginia and Lina, who is a modern day young attorney. It takes some time for the storylines to intersect. I was more interested in the Josephine storyline - maybe because I like historical fiction more than contemporary. ...more
Diane S ☔
Aug 18, 2012 rated it liked it
3.5 Loved Josephine's part of the story, 1852 on a failing tobacco farm in Virgina, but Lina's in the present day, I did not find as enticing. The author did a very credible job in seamlessly weaving the past with the present, but the present day story was a bit of a cliche for me. Young lawyer, taking a case on reparations,ar times I felt a bit minupulated and preached to about this case, and the fact that the main litigant was of course an extremely good looking male. Josephine, who wanted to ...more
The Book Posh
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This story is amazing. I need not say more.
Sharon Huether
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novel, slaves, virginia
Two women in the book, Josephine a negro slave and Lina, a New York lawyer present day are the heroines in this story during the 1800's in Virginia.

As a young girl Josephine was brought into the home by her owner's the Bells. Lu Ann Bell taught her to read and take care of the house. Lu Ann was an artist and taught Josephine art. Josephine took up drawing and painting. Her subjects were those around her and what she saw on a daily basis.

When she finally made her escape to Philadelphia, she had t
Ron Charles
Jan 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
Tara Conklin’s first novel, “The House Girl,” arrives in the middle of Black History Month boasting all the qualities of a Very Earnest Bestseller. Like Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help,” which has sold millions of copies, “The House Girl” depicts privileged white women and oppressed black women in a familiar, unchallenging way that strokes our liberal sensibilities and lets us feel again the sweet pleasure of racial enlightenment.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but Conklin’s novel gives
BAM Endlessly Booked
Audiobook #179

This is the same narrator as The Hate You Give, so the voices are throwing me.
Tara Chevrestt
You'd think that with all the historical stories out there about the evils of slavery, about slaves trying to be free, of the plight of the early African Americans, you'd think you'd read it all by now. What could one more author add to it?

A lot.

This one touched me in a way that many others haven't. Looking back now that I've turned the last page, I am trying to pinpoint what it exactly what it was that really hit me hard, and I'm not sure. Josephine...has lived a live of heartache. She's an ite
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-audible
The author weaves together the story of Josephine, an enslaved house girl from Virginia before the Civil War and Lina Sparrow, young lawyer assigned to a class-action suit claiming reparation for the descendants of slaves. Lina’s search for a qualified slave descendant (to be the plaintiff) leads her to Josephine, who may have been the actual artist of famous paintings attributed to her plantation mistress.

Josephine’s heart-rending and demoralizing story is slowly revealed through Lina’s search
Jane Gibson
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Unable to get the book in Australia, I was so pleased when at last it arrived in the post. A beautiful hard cover with high quality wrap around and beautiful graphics.
The narrative itself is captivating. Tara Conklin immerses her 21st century protagonist in the 1800s world of slavery; in particular, in the world of a woman whose spirit and talent would not be silenced. The characters and their lives are complex and have been tightly and realistically constructed for the reader.
I have loved the
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Book of Lost Friends
  • The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
  • The Giver of Stars
  • The Dutch House
  • American Dirt
  • Searching for Sylvie Lee
  • The Vanishing Half
  • Lost Roses (Lilac Girls, #2)
  • The Island of Sea Women
  • This Tender Land
  • Dear Edward
  • A Woman Is No Man
  • Sold on a Monday
  • Ask Again, Yes
  • The Lost Girls of Paris
  • The Book of Longings
  • All Adults Here
  • Evvie Drake Starts Over
See similar books…
Tara Conklin was born on St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands and raised in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Yale University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and New York University School of Law. A joint US-UK citizen, Tara now lives in Seattle. Her first novel, The House Girl, was a NYTimes bestseller, #1 IndieNext pick and Target book club pick. Her second, The Last Roman ...more

Related Articles

Jenna Bush Hager is the cohost of TODAY with Hoda & Jenna, alongside Hoda Kotb. She's also the author of several books,...
46 likes · 51 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Let your heart lead you, do not be afraid, for there will be much to regret if reason and sense and fear are your only markers” 30 likes
“Over the years she had learned to fold down rising emotion just as she would fold the clean bedsheets, the sheet growing smaller and tighter with each pass until all that remained of that wide wrinkled expanse of cotton was a hard closed-in square.” 15 likes
More quotes…