“Carnegie''s Maid: A Novel” is easily one of the best book’s I have read in a long time. Granted, I have been fascinated with Andrew Carnegie’s life story for a while, the more I was delighted with how author Marie Benedict tied together historical facts of Andrew...
“Carnegie''s Maid: A Novel” is easily one of the best book’s I have read in a long time. Granted, I have been fascinated with Andrew Carnegie’s life story for a while, the more I was delighted with how author Marie Benedict tied together historical facts of Andrew Carnegie’s life with the story of the fictitious maid Clara Kelley who becomes his mother’s maid.
Clara has been sent to the United States by her father; she is supposed to earn money and send it back to “the old home” in Ireland. In short, she is serving as a (financial) back-up helping her family to survive. Clara takes her mission very seriously. Even though she doesn’t really have any job skills that qualify her for a career in which she can make enough money, she has a major advantage – she is determined, clever, and educated.
Arriving on the ocean liner “Envoy” in Philadelphia she hops on the chance to get to Pittsburgh where her distant relatives live. As luck has it, another Clara Kelley (a popular name) was also on the same liner to be hired as a maid by the Carnegie family. Realizing that the “other Clara Kelley” was probably the young woman who died on the ship, Clara takes her place, gets on the carriage, and eight days later she has the job. The bigger issue is how she is going to keep the job. Mrs. Carnegie is demanding, difficult, and in part quite insecure. Taking one wrong step could mean the end of Clara’s career.
Hence, when Clara notices that Andrew Carnegie, Mrs. Carnegie’s older son and successful entrepreneur is attracted to her, she tries to avoid beginning any kind of relationship. Then again, Clara is also lonely. With the exception of Mr. Ford, the black cook, none of the other servants wants to be friends with her or even talk to her. On the other hand, Andrew Carnegie challenges her mind, teaches her business tricks, and – courts her, with passion and intellect.
Author Marie Benedict creates a plausible scenario how Clara and Andrew learn from each other, stimulate each other, and bring out the best in each other. To not falsify history or lead on the reader, she starts with a prologue that makes it clear that Clara and Andrew won’t get together for good. I still rooted for them anyway. I was also impressed with the vast amount of historic details, flawlessly added to this story; the reader gets a complete picture of the era, the historic details of Pittsburg and New York at the time, and – Andrew Carnegie, which is what I was looking for.
It there anything to be learned from this novel?
(Mr. Ford) “... We are all pretending in this life. One way or another...”
It’s upon us whether we stay “our course” and whether we allow others to help us do that.
A perfect novel,
5 stars, Gisela Hausmann, author & blogger