A South African THE HELP, Barbara Mutch's THE HOUSEMAID'S DAUGHTER is a startling and thought-provoking debut novel which intricately portrays the drama, dynamics and heartbreak of two women against the backdrop of a beautiful yet divided land. For readers of Gillian Slovo or Doris Lessing.
Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Ireland in 1919 to travel to South Africa and marry the fiance she has not seen for five years. Isolated and estranged in a harsh landscape, she finds solace in her diary and the friendship of her housemaid's daughter, Ada. Cathleen recognises in her someone she can love and respond to in a way that she cannot with her own husband and daughter. Under Cathleen's tutelage, Ada grows into an accomplished pianist, and a reader who cannot resist turning the pages of the diary, discovering the secrets Cathleen sought to hide.
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One of my favourites
This is one of my favourite novels. A story that captivates and stirs the heart yet beautifully written. It is unfortunately a rare combination these days.
The novel is set in Cradock in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, a town situated in the semi desert Karoo region. It concerns Ada, the housemaid's daughter who becomes the housemaid to Mrs Cath. She grows up in the house under the protection of her mistress who teaches her to play the piano for which she has a real talent. The novel follows Ada's life through the apartheid years and the tragedies that beset the home and Ada herself. Nevertheless it is a story full of hope and love.