The Housemaid’s Daughter

Barbara Mutch. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-250-01630-0
Mutch’s sprawling debut spans five decades of South Africa’s richest—and most painful—history. The eponymous housemaid’s daughter, Ada Mabuse, has grown up in the household of Edward and Cathleen Harrington, at an estate named Cradock House. As a black South African, Ada has few opportunities outside of the estate, and she eventually succeeds her mother as housekeeper. But “Mrs. Cath” loves her like one of her own children, teaching her to read and play the piano. When Cathleen is called away for a few weeks, Mr. Harrington exploits 17-year-old Ada’s sense of duty. Pregnant with Mr. Harrington’s child, Ada flees to the nearby township, where she eventually gives birth to a baby girl named Dawn. With her light skin and eyes, the baby is regarded as neither black nor white. Under new laws, Dawn’s very existence is illegal, and the brutality of the emerging apartheid state leaves Ada in constant fear for her daughter’s safety. Eventually, she returns to the relative safety of Cradock House, but the shifting political climate and the passage of time make it hard for Ada to cling to the life and home she thought would never change. Interludes from Cathleen’s diary, intended to supply an additional perspective, are a bit heavy-handed, as is the predictable (and bleak) ending. But a vividly drawn setting and Ada’s consistent, special voice drive the story and keep the pages turning. First printing of 50,000 copies. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/14/2013
Release date: 12/10/2013
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 416 pages - 978-1-250-03196-9
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-4829-6116-4
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-1-250-05446-3
MP3 CD - 978-1-4829-4715-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-4829-4716-8
Hardcover - 591 pages - 978-1-4104-6734-8
Compact Disc - 13 pages - 978-1-4829-4714-4
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-7553-9210-0
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