Marie Benedict is known for writing historical fiction based in fact. The Other Einstein is another such book by her, and I also recommend it. One of the most enjoyable aspects of her work is the presence of strong and interesting female characters.
In Carnegie’s Maid she tells the story of Irish immigrant Clara Kelly, an intelligent and educated farmer’s daughter who assumes the identity of another identically named passenger who died during their passage. The purpose of her immigration was to help sustain her family during the famine in Ireland. Though she has no experience, she is employed as lady’s maid to Margaret Carnegie, mother to Andrew and Tom. Her intellect begins to earn Andrew’s attention and affection. She is able to help him in his businesses and he helps her by paying her with shares.
Clara sees that her deception and the differences in their background make any chance of a real, permanent relationship unlikely. She remains devoted to her family who have been going through ever greater difficulties. She leaves Andrew without explanation so that her real identity is not revealed and so that she can continue to help her family. After the loss of the woman he cares for Andrew determines that he will devote most of his fortune to benevolent purposes. To do this, he decides to provide assistance to poor boys by establishing free public libraries so that they will be able to learn and prepare for jobs.
I think the reason this book speaks to me so directly is that libraries do the same thing today. We educate and help people learn. We may do it digitally and with all kinds of new tools, but our purpose and goals are still the same.
Review by Gaye G.