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Friday, December 29, 2017

Carnegie's Maid by Marie Benedict

Title: Carnegie’s Maid
Author: Marie Benedict
Publisher: 1st January 2018 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Pages: 288 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 4 crowns

From the author of The Other Einstein comes the mesmerizing story of love, power, and the woman who inspired an American dynasty
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
My Thoughts

“You have taught me that I should carve out a different path. Pedigree, that accident of birth, does not give a man the right to public respect. Only good deeds can do that.”

What a fabulous premise for a story, that being, two like minds came together and set about making fundamental changes that would have a lasting impact on society. Could a relationship such as this have been a possible catalyst that turned this infamous businessman into a philanthropist? Marie Benedict has written this fictional account of one such possibility - such an interesting concept. Andrew Carnegie built free libraries, providing the gift of books and from that, an education, regardless of rank or money. Once a poor immigrant himself, he fully understood what it was to be a factory worker but went on to become one of the richest men in the world at that time.

“I cannot describe to you the impact that library had on my life and my success. It quite literally made me who I am today.”

This tale incorporates this and so much more, ranging from American industrialisation to class differentiation. Benedict has done her research from Ireland to America, from rural to urban living standards, to the clear division of the ‘haves’ and have nots’. The undisputable historical details are fascinating and will have you checking Google to learn more of not only Carnegie but other recorded facts from this time in American history - from the Civil War to railroad expansion, a fresh insight was superbly integrated. The blend of fact and fiction is seamless.

Am I fully convinced of the author’s theory? Not entirely. With the romance feeling a little bit too ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ for me, I therefore found it difficult to commit to the profound effect Clara reportedly had on this magnate. I would have preferred more investment in the friendship between Mr. Ford (African American) and Clara for example, to provide more depth. It is also a short read, so there is not much time to cement such a strong assertion.

‘I sat back and watched him wield his “words” like a painter wields his brush, each a masterly stroke in the creation of a seamless whole. Except I was not witnessing the creation of an average painting, I realized. I was watching a masterpiece in progress.’

I cannot, however, dispute the quality of Benedict’s writing - it is an interesting and informative read, shining a light on the the historic details and social mores of the time. So put aside your doubts and immerse yourself in a fictional characterisation:

If Andrew still believed that I was the Anglo-Irish tradesman’s daughter Clara Kelley—the woman who had inspired him in business and affection and who challenged him to carve a different, better path than the one driven solely by avarice—the chance existed that my influence might remain.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

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