17286767Reviewed by Meg Massey

Cathleen Harrington left her home in Ireland to marry a man she had not seen in five years, a man that she did not really love. But she made a life in South Africa, though she often felt estranged from the local community, and even her own family. But she finds solace in her housemaid, and later the housemaid’s daughter, Ada. Mrs. Cath teaches Ada how to read and play the piano, despite the protests of her husband.

Ada is in inquisitive child, who desires to understand things that she does not understand. She learns much from Mrs. Cath, reading Mrs. Cath’s diaries, and witnesses a world at war around her, as South Africa is a country divided by apartheid in the mid-1900s. But when tragedies strike the families, and Ada disappears from the house, Cathleen is desperate to understand what has taken her darling Ada away from her.

Author Barbara Mutch’s debut novel, The Housemaid’s Daughter, is a beautiful and heartbreaking tale of two women that work to rise above the cruelty and hate that surrounds them to find love and understanding. Mrs. Cath is a kind woman with many regrets, who sees past color and grows to love her beloved Ada more than her own daughter. But Ada is really the center of this tale, a woman who struggles to overcome feelings of shame, who longs to create a different world, a world of acceptance, for her young coloured daughter, Dawn. A woman who lives with her own regrets, much like Mrs. Cath. The two are so connected, but nearly driven apart by shame and the world outside their door.

I was deeply moved by this story of two women who are so different, but yet so much alike. And set against the backdrop of South Africa during apartheid, it’s a story that you won’t soon forget. The author brings Cathleen’s past to life through the words of her own diaries, read by Ada throughout the novel. These two women learn to love and accept one another despite their society telling them that such a friendship cannot be so. Mrs. Cath emerges as a kind and forgiving woman, and Ada rises as a woman of great strength despite all the pain that she has faced. If you are a fan of historical fiction, I know that you will love this moving tale of love and redemption. It is certainly a story that I won’t soon forget.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Meg lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ryan. Library professional by day, freelance writer by night, Meg writes about life, entertainment and everything in between on her blog.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.