The Book Mark

Books that make the grade.

The Housemaid’s Daughter



The Housemaid’s Daughter (B+) by Barbara Mutch takes place in South Africa in the 1920’s.

Madam Cathleen was born and raised in Ireland. She marries Master Harrington and moves to live in his house in Africa where the color of your skin dictates how and where you live. Though she has two children of her own, Cathleen becomes attached to Ada the housemaid’s daughter.  She teaches Ada to read and write and to play the piano. The passion they share for music speaks volumes.  Black and white hands play beautiful music together defying all of South Africa’s laws of conduct.

As the story moves forward Ada’s “duty” stains her with sin. Dawn the child of her sin is neither white nor black but somewhere in between. Ada must protect her from both the white and black societies.

Mutch does an incredible job delivering a powerful story told through the innocent voice of Ada. It is an emotional portrayal of the struggle of apartheid.  The images of loss and desperation are clear and the drive for “liberation” can be felt.  You can almost hear the piano chords being played.

I predict that Barbara Mutch will have much success with The Housemaid’s Daughter. I strongly encourage readers to meet Ada, Madam, Dawn and all the townsfolk who defy barriers and customs in order to have a future that is colorless.




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