Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
First line: The gentle melody of a Christmas song lifted into the air of his study from the street below.
Summary: Clara Kelley is a poor Irish girl who has been sent by her family to America to acquire a job so she can send money home to her parents. When she is mistaken for another Irish immigrant, she gains the job of a lifetime. She is hired as the lady’s maid to Mrs. Carnegie, the mother of the rising industrialist, Andrew Carnegie. When she is discovered reading books in the family library by Andrew they strike up a friendship. They discuss poetry, their past lives and business. As their relationship grows, she continues to worry that she will lose her position and no longer be able to help her starving family in Ireland.
Highlights: I loved the lightheartedness of the story. The character of Clara was one I enjoyed following through the story. The time period is one filled with change. Seeing the friendship between Clara and Mr. Ford. They were two outcasts at the time. Each had their own struggles in the time of the Civil War. It was a nice look into the history and cultural outlook of the era. I liked the relationship between Andrew and Clara. The background of Andrew Carnegie was fascinating. It showcases the American dream. He came to America as a poor young man but he took advantage of every opportunity to become one of the richest men in U.S. history. I enjoyed his discussions about his love of reading that slowly evolve into the idea for the Carnegie libraries. Mrs. Carnegie was fascinating. She is a society woman who was not exactly sure how to be a society woman. She was new money and learning as she went. I liked that she deferred to Clara on how things were done. However, she always seemed to be in control.
Lowlights: I wanted more of the friendship between Mr. Ford and Clara. They have such an interesting dynamic. Clara claims that Mr. Ford was her only friend but we see very few interactions between the two. I liked that they found someone who is as much on the outside as the other.
FYI: The story is fiction but it is a nice story of Andrew Carnegie.