I have absolutely no hesitation in awarding this book 5/5. It was simply brilliant.
Despite my love of history, my knowledge of 1860s America is very poor so I was completely drawn into this love story of Irish and Scottish immigrants.
The central male character is Andrew Carnegie and he is one of the most incredible men I have googled. He amassed a huge fortune and then proceeded to become a philanthropist, creating public buildings such as libraries to enable the poor to have access to the cultural arts.
That isn’t fiction: it is true that he was born in Scotland and emigrated to America with his family. He taught himself business skills and managed to amass a huge fortune before starting to use his money to help the poor.
This novel’s fictional element is that he had an encounter with an Irish immigrant Clara Kelley who became his mother’s lady’s maid and showed him that the poor are caught in a vicious circle of poverty and lack of education.
I was able to read this book very quickly as the chapters are short so I could squeeze them around the children and housework.
It was beautifully written and the character of Clara is so appealing that you really want her to find love and happiness.
The conclusion of the book is bittersweet as obviously the author has stayed true to the real facts of Carnegie’s life but it is happy enough for Clara and the other characters as well as offering a powerful social message.