Review of “Carnegie’s Maid” by Marie Benedict

Benedict, Marie. Carnegie’s Maid. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Landmark, 2018.

Hardcover | $25.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1492646617 | 281 pages | Historical Fiction

5 stars

Carnegie’s Maid caught my attention almost immediately, although I admit I took a while to actually pick it up, given I had only a passing interest in Andrew Carnegie as a major financial supporter of libraries, and perhaps a vague idea of him as a Gilded Age and early 20th century industrialist. However, again seeking more books set in this time period, I decided to finally give it a go.

I was intrigued by Benedict’s approach to Carnegie as a character, as it really showed a juxtaposition of his humble origins (which I wasn’t aware of beforehand) and his lofty ambitions. While it’s something I had seen before in some of the other novels I had read, I loved seeing the way the seeds were sown for him to go from being just another rags-to-riches snob to someone who actually reflects on his origins and works to fund resources to help immigrants coming to America for a better life.

But Clara is definitely the star of the book, and I love how her situation as an immigrant herself draws on more than just being a fictional character who spends most of the book in the sphere of Carnegie and his family, but also looks at the day-to-day existence of many immigrant women during the period. Benedict’s remarks on the personal connection she drew on in her own family history to create Clara was wonderful.

And while it’s only briefly touched on at the end, it’s wonderful to see a woman like Clara find success that doesn’t necessarily involve marriage and the domestic sphere, and also alluding to the role that Carnegie Libraries played in helping provide other immigrants (and the general public overall) with access to education, a legacy which continues today.

This is a wonderful book that highlights the poignant story of coming to America and working to better oneself. I would recommend this to anyone who loves a great historical fiction story.

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