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The Housemaid's Daughter

Barbara Mutch

St. Martin's Press

Barbara Mutch's stunning first novel tells a story of love and duty colliding on the arid plains of Apartheid-era South Africa

When Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Ireland in 1919 to travel to South Africa, she knows that she does not love the man she is to marry there —her fiance Edward, whom she has not seen for five years. Isolated and estranged in a small town in the harsh Karoo desert, her only real companions are her diary and her housemaid, and later the housemaid's daughter, Ada. When Ada is born, Cathleen recognizes in her someone she can love and respond to in a way that she cannot with her own family.

Under Cathleen’s tutelage, Ada grows into an accomplished pianist and a reader who cannot resist turning the pages of the diary, discovering the secrets Cathleen sought to hide. As they grow closer, Ada sees new possibilities in front of her—a new horizon. But in one night, everything changes, and Cathleen comes home from a trip to find that Ada has disappeared, scorned by her own community. Cathleen must make a choice: should she conform to society, or search for the girl who has become closer to her than her own daughter?

Set against the backdrop of a beautiful, yet divided land, The Housemaid's Daughter is a startling and thought-provoking novel that intricately portrays the drama and heartbreak of two women who rise above cruelty to find love, hope, and redemption.

Barbara Mutch's stunning first novel tells a story of love and duty colliding on the arid plains of Apartheid-era South Africa

When Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Ireland in 1919 to travel to South Africa, she knows that she does not love the man she is to marry there —her fiance Edward, whom she has not seen for five years. Isolated and estranged in a small town in the harsh Karoo desert, her only real companions are her diary and her housemaid, and later the housemaid's daughter, Ada. When Ada is born, Cathleen recognizes in her someone she can love and respond to in a way that she cannot with her own family.

Under Cathleen’s tutelage, Ada grows into an accomplished pianist and a reader who cannot resist turning the pages of the diary, discovering the secrets Cathleen sought to hide. As they grow closer, Ada sees new possibilities in front of her—a new horizon. But in one night, everything changes, and Cathleen comes home from a trip to find that Ada has disappeared, scorned by her own community. Cathleen must make a choice: should she conform to society, or search for the girl who has become closer to her than her own daughter?

Set against the backdrop of a beautiful, yet divided land, The Housemaid's Daughter is a startling and thought-provoking novel that intricately portrays the drama and heartbreak of two women who rise above cruelty to find love, hope, and redemption.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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PROLOGUE

Ireland, 1919

Today I left for Africa.

Out of the front door I went, and down the flagstone path. The gulls were shrieking over Bannock cliffs and my dearest sister Ada was crying. Mother – in the brown dress she wore for weddings and christenings – looked the other way. Remember this, I kept telling myself as I climbed into the pony trap.

Remember this: the wheeling gulls, the click of the waves on the pebbles in the Cove, Father’s hands red and chapped, Eamon shifting from foot to foot, a waft of peaty earth and chimney smoke and lilac...

Remember this,
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REVIEWS

Praise for The Housemaid's Daughter

"A compelling story . . . Ada's voice is by turns as lyrical and fierce as the music she plays on her beloved piano . . . Mutch evokes compassion for this stark and beautiful land and for the characters who strive to find their place amidst the turmoil that grips it." —Patricia Falvey, bestselling author of The Yellow House

“[An] exquisite debut . . . This is a book to be cherished, one that will grow deeper and richer with re-reading.” —Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August

“If you loved The Help, try The Housemaid's Daughter . . . The friendship at its center will leave your heart singing.” —Good Housekeeping (UK)

"A compelling story . . . Ada's voice is by turns as lyrical and fierce as the music she plays on her beloved piano . . . Mutch evokes compassion for this stark and beautiful land and for the characters who strive to find their place amidst the turmoil that grips it." —Patricia Falvey, bestselling author of The Yellow House

“[An] exquisite debut . . . This is a book to be cherished, one that will grow deeper and richer with re-reading.” —Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August

“If you loved The Help, try The Housemaid's Daughter . . . The friendship at its center will leave your heart singing.” —Good Housekeeping (UK)

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Barbara Mutch

  • BARBARA MUTCH was born and raised in South Africa, the granddaughter of Irish immigrants. She is married with two sons and divides her time between Cape Town and London. THE HOUSEMAID'S DAUGHTER is her first novel.

  • Barbara Mutch © Dawson Strange Photography
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    The Housemaid's Daughter

    Barbara Mutch

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    St. Martin's Press

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