I received this novel as an advance copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
I don’t read much historical fiction. But I really enjoyed reading Marie Benedict’s The Other Einstein. I love how the author focuses the attention on the female character instead of the popular male historical figure. I wanted to see how she would write this story, and I was very excited to get a review copy of this novel. Here is my opinion:
Synopsis (Goodreads): 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.
Review: This was a very interesting take on what made Andrew Carnegie the philanthropist he is known as today. I like the idea that Clara Kelly, a maid desperate to help her family survive, was able to influence Andrew Carnegie. However, I don’t think it was portrayed in a believable manner.
For one thing, Clara has no real knowledge of business. Now, that doesn’t mean she can’t come up with any original ideas. However, I wasn’t as pleased with the way this came about. I wanted a little more time to see Clara grow in her expertise, or to show her shrewd mind. I didn’t see that ability in her and so, it was hard for me to imagine that she was able to come up with the creative ideas that she did.
I also found Clara to be a lot more bland than I would have liked. I wanted some spunk and some tenacity in her. It made it hard to connect with her as a reader. However, the other characters were portrayed beautifully. I especially loved Mrs. Carnegie, Andrew Carnegie’s mother. She was very shrewd and her moments of social ineptitude were endearing. In fact, I would have loved to hear the story from her perspective, and see from her eyes as all her hard work is reflected through the success of her son.
I really liked the way that the author set up the historic scene, including the style of fashion and the different levels of decorum that are displayed at various levels of the social hierarchy. However, I wish the language had been simpler. What I mean is that certain sentence structures seemed awkward and could have been worded in a simpler and more effective way; I don’t like to have to reread sentences multiple times in order to understand an inconsequential detail.
Overall, I actually quite liked this historical fiction story. I liked learning more about the empire that Andrew Carnegie was trying to build, and I liked the idea that a simple maid could have influenced him so much. However, I wish that Clara had been a stronger character because her pivotal role seemed quite forced. In fact, I would have preferred to see the story from Mrs. Carnegie’s perspective over hers! I’m going to give this novel a 2.5/5 stars (rounded to 3), but I look forward to reading more by this author!