When Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Ireland in 1919 to travel to South Africa, she is uncertain about her feelings for the man she is to marry there—her fiancé Edward, whom she has not seen for five years. Feeling isolated and estranged at Cradock House, her new home is in a small town in the harsh Karoo desert; her only real companions are her diary, her housemaid, Miriam, and later the housemaid’s daughter, Ada.
Although she finds herself in a passionless marriage, Cathleen perseveres and gives birth to two children, her cheerful son, Philip, and her ill-tempered daughter, Rosemary. However, over the years, it is Ada with whom Cathleen forms a unique, powerful bond. While Cathleen’s own daughter complains that she hates to play her mother’s beloved piano, Ada thrives on Cathleen’s tutelage and becomes an accomplished pianist. Besides sharing a love of music, Cathleen teaches Ada to read, despite the objections of Edward. Ada often peeks into Cathleen’s diary, and learns the secrets of her heart.
Encouraged by Cathleen, Ada sees new possibilities for her own life. But one night, while Cathleen is away on a trip, Edward takes advantage of teenaged Ada with devastating results. When Cathleen arrives home, she finds that Ada has disappeared. No longer living in the security of Cradock House, Ada is now forced to survive amidst the harsh realities of apartheid. She struggles to make a life for herself. In time, she must also fight to keep her biracial baby daughter safe. As time passes, Cathleen’s attempts to find Ada fail time and again. She remains confused and heartbroken by Ada’s mysterious departure until one day when a piano’s music brings Cathleen to a starting discovery.
Narrated in the compelling voice of Ada, as well as Cathleen through her diary passages, THE HOUSEMAID’S DAUGHTER is a breathtaking and thought-provoking novel about the parallel lives of these two women whose poignant relationship rises above the turbulence of the period. It is a stunning story that is certain to resonate with readers everywhere.
Cathleen Harrington is a burndon on her big family in Ireland. There are just some many mouths to feed. She leaves home to meet up with her fiancé Edward. Once there, she has no friends, just Edward and their maid, Miriam. She becomes friends with Miriam, even though she is not only black, but also pregnant, out of wedlock.
When Ada is born, she dotes on her, perhaps even more than her own children. She wants Ada to attend school but Edward thinks it will “cause problems later”. So, she teaches Ada herself. Ada turns out to be a good student, unlike Kathleen’s daughter, Rosemary. One day when Rosemary is practicing piano, Kathleen hears that her playing much better and can’t believe her ears. However, when she goes to look, it is Ada playing. So, she decides right away to teach her how to play.
Piano becomes the most important thing in Ada’s life, except for perhaps Philip, Kathleen’s son. However, he has to go off and fight in WWII.
A bit later in the book, Ada disappears and Kathleen looks for her. Meanwhile, apartheid is getting harsher and harsher by the day.
I can’t say anymore with the risk of big spoilers.
Set against the backdrop of Karoo, a small town in South Africa, The Housemaid’s Daughter is a beautifully written story of a white Madam and her close relationship with her housemaid’s daughter, Ada. Barbara Mutch has well developed characters and she captures the harsh setting of both the land and realities of the time. Her poetic prose is spot on. I give this 5+ stars!
I received a ebook copy of this book for my honest opinion!
About Barbara Mutch:
BARBARA MUTCH was born and raised in South Africa, the granddaughter of Irish immigrants. She is married with two sons and divides her time between Cape Town and London.
Thanks to Brittani Hilles of St. Martin Press, I am giving away one print copy. This giveaway is open to Canada and the U.S. only and ends on February 10, 2015. Please use Rafflecopter to enter.