Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin. Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.

My take: 3 looks


Nice historical fiction book. Spanning about 15 years, this tells the story from two perspectives: Lavinia, a white orphan from Ireland and Belle, a black slave who is also the white master's illegitimate daughter.

Even though it's told from two perspectives, it is Lavinia who dominates the dialogue. I found this very interesting. Lavinia would get 8 pages to Belle's 2 pages. Toward the end, it seemed to even out more, but only perhaps Belle's story was increasing a bit.

I would have like to hear from another perspective, one from the "big house". Perhaps Marshall, the abused and damaged son of the plantation owner. His perspective would have been intriguing and would have shed much-needed light on the reasons for his actions. Otherwise, the reader has to assume that he is simply a deranged and mean person.

Lavinia, as a white girl in the servant's quarters, was a bit predictable in her actions and attitudes. She didn't understand why she was able to sit in the front of the church, as opposed to standing in the back like her "family" did. She didn't understand that, when she returns as the mistress, she is treated differently by her "family".

I think the most complex characters would be Mama Mae and Marshall. However, I think Martha also had a story to tell. I would have liked to hear from them, as opposed to those chosen. It was an easy read, though, and I recommend it.

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