Tuesday, March 27, 2018
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
This is the story of Belle and Lavinia, a woman and a girl both in slavery on the same Virginia plantation in the late 1700's. Belle is the illegitimate daughter of the plantation owner and Lavinia is a white child who was purchased after her parents died on one of the ships owned by the plantation owner. He kept the girl in payment for her passage from Ireland. She is given to Belle who runs the kitchen house on the plantation and she is raised as Belle's daughter.
Both characters find themselves in between the other slaves and the members of the family. Belle sometimes gets special treatment as the owner's daughter and is anticipating getting her emancipation papers from her father. She is forbidden to marry one of the slaves, who she loves, as her father is trying to find a more "suitable" marriage for her. Lavinia, because she is white is given opportunities the other slaves aren't given.
This was an awful time in history and it can make for difficult reading at times. People are bought and sold and treated like animals. They are put in positions no one should have to face. But through it all you see the strength of many of the characters. Rape, domestic violence, alcohol and drug addiction, incest and child molestation all factor into the story. There is a lot of suffering and death.
While not always an easy read, I still found the story really compelling and couldn't put it down. I worked through this one pretty quickly. The subject matter makes it hard to say I "enjoyed" the book, but I found it to be well-written and a good read. I loved the characters (well the ones I was supposed to love and I hated the ones I was supposed to hate). I do want to say there's not a lot here to set this apart from other books set in this time period, but it is still a good read.