Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The harm was everyone and everywhere

I realized sometime last weekend that I had forgotten to write something to post during the week. Then, during the week, I tried to find some time to write but that, clearly, did not work. I used to write my posts whenever during the week but things have gotten busier so that doesn't work anymore. Now my goal is to write them during the weekend and technically even now I'm failing at that, as it is Monday. But it's a holiday weekend so, I'm sort of still on track.

Anyway, here's Wonderwall The House Girl.

There are a number of books out there that I get into my head that they're "very smart" books that deal with "important things" and I honestly have no idea where I come up with that. Because it seems like these books always turn out to be waaaaaaay less intimidating than I made out in my head and when I try to go back and find the reasons I thought the book was so fancy, I come up empty. The House Girl fits this, but instead of it being "Yay the book is not so intimidating!" it's more "Oh. I thought there'd be more to you. But no? K, I guess."

The story has 2 narratives: Josephine, the titular house girl on a plantation back 1800s Virginia, and Lina Sparrow, a young lawyer working a reparations case in the present day. Though I should probably put those in the other order because it feels like Lina's chapters feel like the main story, fleshed out by Josephine's.

Lina's law firm gets a case for a $6 trillion reparations lawsuit to sue the government and any business who could have benefitted from slavery in a reparations case. Another guy on the team has to do...lawyery things* and Lina is charged with finding a "face for the case" by finding a direct descendant of a slave to put on the stand.

Lina becomes obsessed with finding a descendant of the house girl Josephine, who is said to be the actual artists behind a number of famous paintings currently attributed to Lu Anne Bell, Josephine's mistress. Through a crazy random happenstance, Lina meets someone at her father's gallery opening that owns a couple as-yet-unknown Lu Anne Bell/Josephine pictures and could just be the descendant she's looking for. Also he's cute and in a band.
Meanwhile we see Josephine is the person behind the painting but more than that we see Josephine trying to escape. There's a little bit of her life on the plantation, taking care of Lu Anne who is sick and has no children of her own after 12 miscarriages. The chapters with Josephine are interesting and inspired less eye-rolls than the modern chapters. Which is too bad cos we spend so much time with Lina instead. There are even sections that are sort of Josephine's story, but told through the point of view of an abolitionist who was helping slaves along the underground railroad.

The book pretty much exactly how you assume it will. I didn't highlight many passages and by the end I started making snarky comments at the text, which typically means I'm bored with this now. Like I said in my minireview, the book wasn't bad. It just wasn't particularly good either. If you want to read a review that nails my feelings on this book (you know, other than mine, right here), check out the Washington Post piece. It says everything I wish I had thought to say.

Gif rating:
*Listen, I finished this a couple months ago. I know, it's a problem. Details are forgotten.

Title quote page 77, location 1120

Conklin, Tara. The House Girl. Harper Collins, 2013. Kindle.