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The Housemaid's Daughter [Paperback]

Barbara Mutch
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

3 Jan 2013

Duty and love collide on the arid plains of central South Africa. Previously released as 'Karoo Plainsong' this is a fully revised debut novel.

Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Ireland in 1919 to travel to South Africa and marry the fiance she has not seen for five years. Isolated and estranged in a harsh landscape, she finds solace in her diary and the friendship of her housemaid's daughter, Ada. Cathleen recognises in her someone she can love and respond to in a way that she cannot with her own husband and daughter. 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.

When Ada is compromised and finds she is expecting a mixed-race child, she flees her home, determined to spare Cathleen the knowledge of her betrayal, and the disgrace that would descend upon the family. Scorned within her own community, Ada is forced to carve a life for herself, her child, and her music. But Cathleen still believes in Ada, and risks the constraints of apartheid to search for her and persuade her to return with her daughter. Beyond the cruelty, there is love, hope - and redemption.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review (3 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755392124
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755392124
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 107,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'If you love last summer's THE HELP, try the HOUSEMAID'S DAUGHTER by Barbara Mutch... The friendship at its centre will leave your singing.' (Good Reads)

'This debut novel has echoes of Kathryn Stockett's THE HELP and is equally compelling... Ada's story is both an enjoyable and a very moving one, told with sensitivity and feeling.' (

Book Description

A South African THE HELP, THE HOUSEMAID'S DAUGHTER is a startling and thought-provoking debut novel which intricately portrays the drama, dynamics and heartbreak of two women against the backdrop of a beautiful yet divided land.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking and uplifting 2 Aug 2012
This novel offers a really interesting perspective on the apartheid era and how it affected ordinary people, specifically women, on both sides of the huge divide that existed in South African society. Above all though it's a story about the power of friendship to break down those barriers, and the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Whether you have a particular interest in South Africa and that period of history or not, you can't fail to be captivated and moved by this beautiful story. Highly recommended and looking forward to more from this new writer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful and moving tale 2 Aug 2012
In heart-wrenching detail, the author captures the difficulties facing those divided by apartheid and she provides a vivid and powerful insight into an intensely fraught time in South African history. This is done with such eloquence, such skill and such honesty that I challenge anyone to remain unmoved in its reading. Well worth a read!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Clearly a first novel 17 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This had a good story line and the characters were promising, however the whole thing lacked depth, complexity and the sense of being fully developed. It was clear this was the author's first novel and she has a way to go before perfecting her craft.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you liked 'The Help' you'll love this 26 Oct 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Ada Mabuse, the Housemaid's daughter, lives with her mother in the kaia at the bottom of the Harrington's garden. Both Ada and her mother Miriam strike up an unlikely friendship with their boss, Madam Cathleen, despite the racial inequality and segregation dividing South Africa during the twentieth century. The book follows Ada throughout the decades from a young girl learning the piano from a white woman to a mother who will do anything to protect her mixed-race child.

Barabara Mutch expertly paints a vivid picture of the dry land of the Karoo, the ever-changing water level of the Groot Vis and the bridge that partitions the people of Cradock by skin colour. She also has crafted a remarkably well-rounded character in Ada who has a keen interest in reading and learning words, is captivated when playing both classical and jazz on the piano and is intent on gaining equal rights with the use of negotiation rather than war. The other characters such as her kind friend Lindiwe, and the Harrington's add to the diversity and depth of South Africa at this time. I would highly recommend this novel and will look out for more from this author in future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down 6 Sep 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found it very difficult to stop reading this book, and sad when it came to an end. It is a beautifully written account of a woman living through Apartheid in South Africa, and her madam, who is also isolated in her own way. Not only was it a great story, but it taught me a lot about those times. I'd thoroughly recommend it to anyone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put this book down!!!! ... 7 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I couldn't put this book down!!!! It was a fascinating look at times gone by and should be a must read for all.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An emotive read 29 May 2014
By Holly
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I feel a little heartbroken right now, really I could cry. The tears in my eyes are ready and waiting to fall.

This is so conflicting, I want to call it beautiful, but it isn't most of the time. Ada is an incredible character who endures so, so much. Although her ending is happy, it's only just so.

This book doesn't touch much on after the apartheid, more the before and during and it's heartbreaking and whilst Ada's story is fiction, it's hard reading something that was full of truth: the treatment and attitudes are horrendous.

This is admittedly a long read - I felt we were reaching a conclusion at around 59% and so was a bit frustrated to think I'd not long passed the halfway mark and thought it would become dull. The author continued the story well, however it lost steam for me, as I felt we'd received the entire story by 59%. I think this was the fault of the blurb though as it really only indicated the first half - the blurb for the book on the author's goodreads profile is far more accurate.

All in all though, a very powerful and well written book following the very difficult, although blessed life of Ada
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful story, beautifully written. 21 May 2014
By jacqui
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A wonderful story, beautifully written. A young girl who is devoted to the employers she has worked and lived with all her life finds out that her colour will always divide her from them. As South Africa enters its dark days of apartheid, she and her pale skinned child are shunned by both black and white alike. She finds her inner strength in music and her story is woven around the glorious notes of Debussy and township Bach.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Page turner
Excellent book, could not put it down. So much detail that i disappeared into the story. a great read by a great writer.
Published 2 months ago by janet walwyn
4.0 out of 5 stars You needed to be emotionless to survive.
Servant, mistress and child all due their duty to the best of their ability. They can't let love into their hearts, or can't let it show too much, as that would make their lives... Read more
Published 5 months ago by JD
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
I finished The Housemaid's Daughter yesterday and I know that like To Kill A mockingbird or Tiny Sunbirds Far Away, this book will stay with me forever. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
Couldn't wait to read it every night. Sad but also entertaining. Great storytelling and interesting history of South Africa during apartheid
Published 8 months ago by andrea
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written.
A very understated story of the struggle against apartheid. it was an insight into life for the majority of people at the time. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Chrissie
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptionally good read.
Up there with the best books I have read recently. Sophisticated and yet simple - exploring the horrors of apartheid on the one hand and the mother/daughter relationship on the... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Maggie Tanner
5.0 out of 5 stars Review
Excellent reading, beautifully written! I enjoyed this book a great deal and I found I couldn't put it down at all.
Published 10 months ago by Louise Turner
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather laboured the point
This story is well written, and shows how the segregation affected people. I think it did labour the point at times, but I enjoyed the read, and the two main characters were very... Read more
Published 11 months ago by binbon
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good
Really enjoyed this book, follows similar lines to The Help. Very interesting to see a different side to the story.
Published 13 months ago by Hannah
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