When I got an email requesting my participation in the Blog Tour for Carnegie’s Maid, I knew I wanted to get a chance to read and review the book since it was the second release from The Other Einstein author Marie Benedict. I have to say that Carnegie’s Maid did not disappoint and I actually liked the tone and style of Benedict’s most recent historical fiction novel better than that of The Other Einstein.
The heroine in Carnegie’s Maid – Clara – was a much stronger and more positive female character than downtrodden and psychologically subjugated Mileva, and overall the plot and setting of Carnegie’s Maid felt less morose than in The Other Einstein. I gave both books a 4 star rating but I would call The Other Einstein a 3.8 if I did fractions, and Carnegie’s Maid a 4.1.
The publisher is holding a giveaway through their publicity group for 3 copies of Carnegie’s Maid which will run through January 31st 2018. You can access the giveaway by clicking on the Rafflecopter giveaway button below.
Publication Date: January 16th 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Length in hardcover: 288 pages
Goodreads rating: 3.86
In the industrial 1860s at the dawn of the Carnegie empire, Irish immigrant Clara Kelly finds herself in desperate circumstances. Looking for a way out, she seeks employment as a lady’s maid in the home of the prominent businessman Andrew Carnegie. Soon, the bond between Clara and her employer deepens into love. But when Clara goes missing, Carnegie’s search for her unearths secrets and revelations that lay the foundation for his lasting legacy. With captivating insight and stunning heart, Carnegie’s Maid tells the story of one lost woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist into the world’s first true philanthropist.
The historical detail and writing. I have to say I felt that Benedict’s prose seemed improved in Carnegie’s Maid. I found her writing more solid and beautiful than it felt in The Other Einstein, and I really enjoyed reading passages of the book aloud. It was clear that Benedict put a lot of historical research into the book – the details of life in upper class America in the mid 1800s felt rich and carefully explored. I particularly liked the descriptions of the rooms in the Carnegie mansion in Pittsburgh and of the upstairs and downstairs life of the mansion, with details on the tasks assigned to Clara as a lady’s maid and her relationship to her mistress Mrs. Carnegie.
The strong female heroine. This was one of the main differences between The Other Einstein and Carnegie’s Maid, and it’s apparent from the very beginning of the novel. The Carnegie’s Maid heroine Clara demonstrates huge strength and ambition as well as uncommon intelligence. I really appreciated that Benedict portrayed her as an self-sufficient and resourceful women, with others depending on her rather than vice versa. It would have been easy for Clara to turn out as rigid and one-note as a result, but she also demonstrates a lot of emotion and humanity in her interactions with all the secondary characters in the novel and in her worries about her family in Ireland and their plight.
The subplots. There were several subplots that unrolled alongside the main story of Clara’s attempts at gaining footing in her new job with the Carnegie’s, including the story of Clara’s family’s progressive worsening conditions in Ireland, the exploration of the typical American immigrant experience through the extended family that Clara visits in Pittsburgh, and even a small foray into the experience of displaced African American families during the Civil War through the Carnegie’s cook Mr. Ford. It was a relatively brief novel but I felt that at least the first two of these subplots were well developed within the narrative and added to the overall reading experience.
Some lack of realism. It’s not uncommon to have to suspend disbelief a bit when reading historical novels. They’re not exactly meant to be 100% accurate and often romanticize aspects of the historical periods they cover, or bend the truth for the sake of a more engaging plot. The latter was definitely the case in Carnegie’s Maid. Without too many spoilers, Clara makes a progression in her work and interests throughout the novel that felt like it skirted what would have been actually possible for a woman of her time with a similar upbringing. There were story lines in the business part of the plot towards the end of the novel that felt improbable at best. I still loved Clara’s character though and was able to shut half an eye to some of the less likely scenarios.
A beautifully written historical novel with a strong female heroine at its center, which will make for an engaging read for both fans of historical fiction and newcomers to the genre alike.
Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years’ experience as a litigator at two of the country’s premier law firms. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College with a focus in History and Art History, and a cum laude graduate of the Boston University School of Law. While practicing as a lawyer, Marie dreamed of a fantastical job unearthing the hidden historical stories of women — and finally found it when she tried her hand at writing. She embarked on a new, narratively connected series of historical novels with The Other Einstein, which tells the tale of Albert Einstein’s first wife, a physicist herself, and the role she might have played in his theories. Her next novel in this series — Carnegie’s Maid — released in January 2018. Writing as Heather Terrell, Marie also published the historical novels The Chrysalis, The Map Thief, and Brigid of Kildare.
Have you read Carnegie’s Maid? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.
You can also read my other recent Just Read reviews, including for Isabel Allende’s new novel In The Midst Of Winter, historical fiction novels The Last Days Of Night by Graham Moore and The Rules Of Magic by Alice Hoffman, contemporary novel The Best Kind Of People by Zoe Whittall, and political memoir What Happened by Hillary Clinton.
Please note this post contains affiliate links from Book Depository. Thank you to Net Galley, SBPublicity and the publisher for providing a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.