Carnegie's Maid

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 02 Feb 2018

Member Reviews

Carnegie’s Maid is a story that usually could be categorize as Christian historical romance since the relationship between Clara and Andrew Carnegie is platonic and most of the time they talk about business and shares, not about their feelings. It’s a well written story, but there were some things I just couldn’t get over: Was the story based on just one line from Andrew Carnegie letter? How did Clara’s family not wonder how could she talk with Ms Carnegie if she was just a scullery made, as she said she was? How can a cook go to the library and pick up the masters unfinished letter? 

Well anyway, it was a good and interesting story, just sometimes it did not run very smoothly.
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How did Andrew Carnegie become the philanthropist he's become famous for? Marie Benedict's book offers a possible answer.

While the idea is good, I didn't one hundred percent believe in it.
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I loved this book! Being a Pittsburgh native, Andrew Carnegie was a name that I knew as long as I can remember. This was a great inside (yet fictional) view of Clara Kelley, an Irish immigrant who is mistaken for a girl with the same name, who is hired to be a lady's maid for Mrs. Carnegie, Andrew's mother. She has no background for this kind of work, but learns quickly and over time, develops a quiet relationship with Andrew Carnegie. As she continues to work for the family, she starts learning about business and becomes a confidante to Andrew Carnegie, while the develop feelings for each other as well. 

I loved this inside look into the gilded age and into those in service (think Downton Abbey with an American twist). I liked some of the history of Pittsburgh, my hometown and I can't wait to check out more books by Benedict.

Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I found it slightly hard to get into the book, but that did improve later on. The only thing I know about Carnegies is that there is a Hall named after them and that is about it. While it was interesting reading about them, it wasn't something I was too interested in.
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This book was amazing. I love how Benedict explained her story and made it come to life. I really enjoyed this book. Thank you for the review copy.
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Marie Benedict writes entertaining, but largely unmemorable and uninteresting stories. Having recently finished The Other Einstein by her, I wasn't expecting much from this book and my expectations were fulfilled. This book was fun while I read it, but it was also incredibly predictable and the characters were impossible to connect with - they had almost no personality. The premise is interesting, but not as well executed as I would have hoped. While this was a fun read, I'll probably avoid books from this author in the future - I have little patience for the characters she writes.
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My favorite genre is historical fiction and one that is based on a historical figure goes ot the top of my list. I really enjoyed to dynamics between Andrew , his brother, and his mother. Who knows how much is accurate but the realationship were written like it's true. I had hoped that Clara and Andrew woul reunite but understand that couldn't happen even in a work of fiction.  Great book that I recommended to many.
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RATING: 3 STARS
​(I received an ARC from the NETGALLEY​)​
(Review Not on Blog)
Listened to on Audio

I loved Benedict's other novel, The Other Einstein, so I was super excited to start this one. I knew who Andrew Carnegie was, but not really anything about him.  He was not someone I would have looked up on my own but I do enjoy learning more about history and it's players.  Like her previous novel, Benedict's narrator is a woman "behind the man".  In this case, we have Carnegie's mother's maid and his love interest, Clara Kelly.  Clara to America from Ireland and lucks into a job as a lady's maid.  The few moments Clara and Andrew find they share love of learning and books and begin to fall in love.  Mrs. Carnegie has big ambition for her son and will do anything to make sure they do not marry.  While I found the story interesting and liked Clara, I found the novel just okay.   It was one of those books where it is easy to put down and you are not racing to get to but do want to finish - if that makes sense.
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I am sorry that I couldn't  complete the book on time and it got expired. I am giving 1 star because of the book description. I liked the synopsis and that is why I asked for the book.
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The Carnegie's Maid starts out with our main character sailing from Ireland to America. She is poor and looking to work in America to help her family out in Ireland so they can keep their farm. A woman dies on the boat and is thrown overboard. Once the boat docks, our main character looks for the people who will pick her up to take her to her job. However, her name keeps getting called by another person. She goes with them and finds out she is mistaken for the other woman who died on board and they happen to have the same first and last name. She finds out that woman is supposed to be a ladies maid and she takes that woman's position. She throws herself into being the best ladies maid as possible and pretends to be someone she is not. Will she get caught? Also, she starts falling for Andrew and helps him with his ideas. This book is not wholly centered by a romance, but a way of life. I really enjoyed it.
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Fantastic book! Even though I knew Andrew Carnegie was pivotal to the beginning of the public library system, I didn't know much about his background or other pursuits. This beautiful work of historical fiction had me engrossed from the first page to the last!
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I originally got an e-arc on Netgalley, but I ended up reading a physical copy from the library.


“As Mrs. Barrett Browning says, ‘The world of books is still the world.”

Going into this book I was a little nervous because of how loved this author is. After reading this one, I totally get the hype and I cannot wait to go back and read her debut book.

Clara Kelly is such a realistic character. She's from a farming family in Ireland who has been hit hard by the potato famine and is now struggling to make ends meet. To try and fix this her parents decided that it would be best for one of their children to go to America and look for work there and then send money home. Clara was the one chosen and was able to get an amazing job by chance.

Clara ends up working for the Carnegie family as a ladies maid to Andrew Carnegie's mother. This is something that she just has to learn and as she goes because of certain things. This part was a lot like other ladies maid stories, things get interesting though when she starts to become friends with Andrew.

This friendship is a little weird I'll admit as he is her boss and things could happen. Clara and Andrew have a friendship based on knowledge and there want to talk to one another about certain topics. Clara also sees it as possibly way for her to learn how to earn more money. I really enjoyed their conversations and how they really were friends despite the social rules that had been put in place to stop them.

We also get to see Clara's cousins and how other immigrants from Ireland lived in America and how hard they had to work for so little.

Overall I really did love this book. Seeing both high and low society at the same time. While also learning more about Mr. Carnegie was really fascinating to me. It was also very eye opening with how certain things have changed in America, yet so much is still the same.

I highly recommend this book, and I know this review doesn't do it justice.
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I remember seeing a tv program a while ago and was fascinated to learn a little about Andrew Carnegie, the titan of business who was one of the first entrepreneurs of the modern age.  His charitable works set him apart from his contemporaries and made him a figure to admire as well as revere.  This novel seeks to explain his apparent change from a driven but insensitive man into a person of great altruism by imaging the relationship between him and his mother's Irish maid.  It's a case of mistaken identity, a love story and a portrait of the times, encompassing Irish history, American industry and even the end of slavery.  It's beautifully written and obviously extremely well-researched.  I look forward to reading all of this author's previous and future work.
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As the great-granddaughter of Welsh immigrants to the Pittsburgh area, I enjoyed Carnegie's Maid by Marie Benedict, about a young Irish immigrant working for a highly successful Pittsburgh family of Scottish immigrants. Benedict’s heroine, Clara Kelly, is a strong woman endeavoring to make enough money in America to save her family from the plights of Irish tenant farm life.

She lands in Philadelphia, planning to head to family in Pittsburgh and immediately gets caught up in some unexpected untruths. However implausible this situation might be, it gets Clara to the Carnegie household as the matriarch’s lady’s maid. Considering her lack of experience in this work, Clara is plucky and resourceful.

Benedict follows the historical events of Andrew Carnegie’s career and personal life, detailing his early accomplishments through the eyes of Clara. Clara and Andrew strike up their unlikely friendship, and the story progresses from there.

Clara stays in touch with her family through infrequent letters. But those letters and the ensuing dramatic moral dilemmas give Benedict a chance to highlight the perils of the time. It was quite normal to face unrest, poverty, risky jobs, and rich men who controlled other men’s lives. Some families never climbed out of their difficulties, and many descended deeper into despair.

And yet, even a recently emigrated family such as the Carnegies tended to forget these realities. Clara tries to keep Andrew aware, even though telling her truths is hard. Benedict imagines that perhaps this is why he began his extensive philanthropy.

My Conclusions:

In so many ways, Carnegie’s Maid is a typical historical fiction romance. The younger woman and older man meet, no matter unlikely the meeting seems. They have mild to moderate conflict, but over time develop feelings of love and desire. That’s when they start sneaking around to see each other! He teaches her things, and she makes him into a better version of himself. The relationship might work, or it might not. Carnegie’s Maid certainly follows this pattern.

I don’t mean to sound overly critical, because I did enjoy Clara’s story. She’s a pleasant heroine who’s easy to admire. The story’s well-paced and not overly long. The audiobook is well-narrated by Alana Kerr Collins. But it didn’t have any characters or plot lines that I found unexpected or groundbreaking. I liked it quite a lot, but I doubt that I’ll rush to read more Marie Benedict.

Acknowledgements:

Many thanks to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Landmark, and the author for access to the digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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I found this book to be interesting in several aspects.  The historical part of how Andrew built his fortune .  He put a lot of effort into learning the ins and outs of the business world.  Studying and listening to the world around him.  Clara is sent over to the US to help her family who are in dire straights in Ireland.  They are struggling to keep their land. After stepping off the ship she is mistaken for another Clara who passed away while crossing over on the ship.  This mistake in identity is a life changer for her.  While working for Andrews mom , they grow close.  Andrew is interested in Clara for her knowledge and she for is interested for his business smarts.  Andrew helps her with a business venture that assist her in leaving her position.  She makes the choice not to see Andrew again because of a business deal that affecting several of the lower citizens..  She sees that later he opens up opportunities to the same people he hurt.
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Having grown up in Pennsylvania, the name Andrew Carnegie is not an unfamiliar one. Rather, it’s a name that is synonymous with Pittsburgh, steel and also with philanthropy. I remember finding him fascinating and I was quite enthralled to see he would be in this novel. I am also a woman who has ancestors who made the arduous journey from Ireland and very well may have struggled as the immigrants in this particular book did. Mine made their way to New York but I have always found it fascinating. I wish I knew more about them. If memory serves me correctly, one was a tinsmith. I don’t think I had a relative who worked as a maid. (I did learn that I have a great aunt who was an abolitionist though!)

Our narrator is Clara Kelley who is traveling from her home in Ireland to hopefully make her way in America in order to help her family, who may lose their farm. She is unsure of what to expect or to do when she arrives since no one is going to be there to pick her up. Imagine her surprise when there is someone awaiting her! Or rather, someone with the same name. Taking hold of the opportunity presented, Clara’s journey leads her to the Carnegie’s service.

It’s a curious few years for her but using her smarts, she is able to acclimate to her new role and achieves some success. Mrs. Carnegie, Andrew’s iron-willed mother, begins to trust her and Clara catches the eye of Andrew himself, further leading her somewhat precarious situation into one wrought with anxiety, fear, triumph and ultimately, a twist of fate.

This is a somewhat short read but it’s an intoxicating one, bringing you into Clara’s world and we also glimpse into society and their rules and thoughts; the struggles of the poor and the audacity and savageness in which Andrew built his company. His guile ultimately pays off but in the meantime, will she prevail? Will she save her family and find her own piece of mind? Will she achieve everything that she wants or will she end up sacrificing her own happiness? I promise you that you’ll enjoy this book and you’ll find yourself rooting for Clara, just as I was. You’ll cringe at the way that most men treated women back then and how women were thought to best be at home, receiving callers, gossiping and generally having empty-headed banter about dresses and useless information.

Mrs. Carnegie, however, is not one of those women. Whilst she does take part in the usual women’s position, she is a keen-minded woman who debates business with her sons and their partners with ease. Clara studies the business and learns quite a bit too. They’re unusual for their time, however. I liked Mrs. Carnegie, despite the fact that there is a coolness about her that if turned on you, could stop your blood in its veins. I found her, Clara and Andrew to be well developed. I’d have liked to learn more about the ‘younger Mr. Carnegie’, Thomas. I’d have also liked to know more about the staff, particularly Mr. Ford, though he is vibrant enough. He’s also the only member of the staff who seems to like Clara.

There’s an Downtown Abbey sort of feel to this book, with the Upstairs/Downstairs staff and the tension. Ms. Benedict portrayed this perfectly. She also did a stunning job of making us understand the vast difference in lifestyles that Clara had come to know; the richness surrounding her at the Carnegie’s home and the barren life in Ireland that many felt. There is one scene in particular that illustrates this perfectly.

Ms. Benedict is a hell of a writer, bringing this world alive. I lost myself in this Industrial Revolution era based tome and found I was anxious for more. I am glad I didn’t live back then, given the smog and heavy smoke from all the factories. Nor would I have wanted to try to break into the upper society, they all were so snooty and stuck on themselves. It was rather disgusting how the length of one’s sleeves could have everyone talking about you. (There’s a scene at a Music Hall that will have you understanding this reference.)

Having read her last novel about Einstein’s first wife, I was already a massive fan. This cemented her as an author whose novels I will always read; what a stunning read.
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Clara Kelly takes the identity of a dead girl with the same name who happened to be traveling on the same boat to America..but why?

I loved this fictional tale of real life people. American tycoons such as the Carnegie family are just fascinating to read about.

I enjoyed the tale from pauper to ladys maid and everything in between, romance and drama, it's a bit like Jane Eyre meets Downton Abbey.  

recommended read for all historical fiction fans
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Though she has written only two novels, Ms. Benedict has become one of my “must read” authors. Having just finished “The Other Einstein” a few weeks ago, I was so pleased to see that NetGalley was offering her newest book as an ARC option. While reading “Carnegie’s Maid” I was once again transported back in time as I followed Clara Kelley and her journey as she arrived in America as a determined Irish immigrant and became part of the Carnegie world as a ladies maid. This novel had me from the Prologue to the Epilogue; in fact it’s one of the few times that I can say a story grabbed me from the “Letter from the Author”. I had a feeling after reading Ms. Benedict’s letter her newest story would take me away, and it did. Following the story of Clara and Andrew, Mrs. Carnegie, and even the cook Mr. Ford… it’s where I have been. 

The Carnegie library part of this story was special for me. As a library clerk, I am someone who has always believed of the importance that libraries provide our society, and of the opportunities they create for other potential “Andrew Carnegie’s” to succeed in their dreams. 

I am curious which story from history you will be unearthing next Ms. Benedict!
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Overall an enjoyable historical fiction and romance novel.
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Loved this book. I literally couldn’t put it down. I knew how it would end but I was hoping for a different outcome. Great historical fiction what if story.
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