Book Review: The House Girl by: Tara Conklin
The House Girl
I give this book four out of five stars for the depths of emotion provoked, the discussion of race, and the exploration into family bonds. The work is thought provoking and a long journey into the lives of two women in two points of time.
What I liked:
1) The discussion of race, slavery, and reparations was poignant, well thought out, and shove against the surface level banter revolving around these issues.
2) The relationship tensions. I think Lena and her father Osacar’s interactions conveyed this the best. Their communication always skirted some topics while others were pursued head on. They provide a relatable portrayal of times when simple conversation never really is simple.
3) There is an overarching question of the meaning of life. Many characters are in pursuit of finding themselves or seeking something greater. Discussions of God’s role; is sense of self something imposed on us by others or is it of our own design; and the meaning of freedom.
What I didn’t like:
1) The narrative voice (please note-I’m not talking about the actual narrator here, I’m discussing the technical construction of the work) never seemed to change or vary. This was most obvious when the narrative was coming from a historical document where letters were filled with gazes, detailed looks, and eloquent prose that are easily recognized as the narrators. Not every character needed to speak in such detail, and because they did the definition of the characters is blurred.
2) The extraneous details. Details and long prose were everywhere and at every moment in the book. I found myself longing for moments of simple narrative. At times I wanted to tell the narrator to skip down the page and pick back up where there was action. The historical letters became very long winded and I groaned whenever another one started because not a single one was short and to the point. The feel of Lena’s office space would remain intact if half the details were stripped.
I listened to the audio version of this book. I thought the female narrator, Bahni Turpin was especially gifted in her inflections for certain characters and her smooth shift into a male’s tone of voice.