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Carnegie's Maid: A Novel Paperback – October 2, 2018
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About the Author
- Publisher : Sourcebooks Landmark; Reprint edition (October 2, 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1492662704
- ISBN-13 : 978-1492662709
- Lexile measure : 1020L
- Item Weight : 1.74 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #6,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Top reviews from the United States
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I am an avid reader of historical fiction and believe that I have learned a great deal from reading books like Carnegie's Maid and highly recommend it to others who like a little fiction mixed into well researched history.
When I was a child in Pittsburgh, the main Carnegie Library was a temple to learning -- no expense spared in its majestic construction and every book cherished, no matter how obscure. I used to make the series of trolley journeys from my suburban home to the university district to visit it every other weekend, just because it amazed me that I was welcome in such a palatial and scholarly environment -- everyone was. It was its sheer magnificence that began my fasciation with Andrew Carnegie. I also adored Pittsburgh -- a very complex place, for those of you who don't know it.
So of course I wanted to read this book, and that side of me was gratified to come away with a better understanding of the young Carnegie and Pittsburgh in the time of the Civil War -- with an intriguing description of New York in the same time period thrown in.
This book is not a literary masterpiece, but it is competently written from the POV of a ladies' maid -- a narrow view of the world, but one which serves the purposes of the book very nicely. The characters took on reality for me, and the small domestic view of some of the great robber-baron moves of the day, and of the building of the country's infrastructure, was engrossing. So was the description of the living conditions of laboring-class immigrants and Irish tenant farmers during the time of the great potato famine, which came to vivid life. And the story arc was quite satisfying -- and the farthest thing imaginable from predictable. I'll be re-reading this book in future.
Clara has been sent to the United States by her father; she is supposed to earn money and send it back to “the old home” in Ireland. In short, she is serving as a (financial) back-up helping her family to survive. Clara takes her mission very seriously. Even though she doesn’t really have any job skills that qualify her for a career in which she can make enough money, she has a major advantage – she is determined, clever, and educated.
Arriving on the ocean liner “Envoy” in Philadelphia she hops on the chance to get to Pittsburgh where her distant relatives live. As luck has it, another Clara Kelley (a popular name) was also on the same liner to be hired as a maid by the Carnegie family. Realizing that the “other Clara Kelley” was probably the young woman who died on the ship, Clara takes her place, gets on the carriage, and eight days later she has the job. The bigger issue is how she is going to keep the job. Mrs. Carnegie is demanding, difficult, and in part quite insecure. Taking one wrong step could mean the end of Clara’s career.
Hence, when Clara notices that Andrew Carnegie, Mrs. Carnegie’s older son and successful entrepreneur is attracted to her, she tries to avoid beginning any kind of relationship. Then again, Clara is also lonely. With the exception of Mr. Ford, the black cook, none of the other servants wants to be friends with her or even talk to her. On the other hand, Andrew Carnegie challenges her mind, teaches her business tricks, and – courts her, with passion and intellect.
Author Marie Benedict creates a plausible scenario how Clara and Andrew learn from each other, stimulate each other, and bring out the best in each other. To not falsify history or lead on the reader, she starts with a prologue that makes it clear that Clara and Andrew won’t get together for good. I still rooted for them anyway. I was also impressed with the vast amount of historic details, flawlessly added to this story; the reader gets a complete picture of the era, the historic details of Pittsburg and New York at the time, and – Andrew Carnegie, which is what I was looking for.
It there anything to be learned from this novel?
(Mr. Ford) “... We are all pretending in this life. One way or another...”
It’s upon us whether we stay “our course” and whether we allow others to help us do that.
A perfect novel,
5 stars, Gisela Hausmann, author & blogger
Top reviews from other countries
Very lifelike and believable.
I was sorry to come to the end of it.