♥Xeni♥'s Reviews > The Kitchen House

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
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's review
Apr 30, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: book-of-the-month, historical, fiction, ebook, adult, literary, southern, slave
Read from April 27 to 30, 2011 , read count: 1

What a powerful novel! I just finished reading it and I am still reeling from the shock of the last 20%!

The setting is the late 1700's in southern America, the plantation home of a white family and their black servants. Rather typical, and known, and yet there is something different here: one of the main characters is a white girl, who's parents died on passage from Ireland and is sold into indentured servitude.

To be a white girl and to grow up with black slaves as your family is hard. We're taken with Lavinia through the years as we see life through her eyes. The other main character is a black slave, Belle, who is the daughter of the white Captain; the plantation owner.

Together, we see them make mistakes, watch the retribution of bad advice and feel very acutely with them how cruel their society is.

But this book isn't just another Uncle Tom's Cabin. There are deeper connections and a more twisted plot and family history you couldn't ask for. The line drawn between 'nigra' and white seems to get more blurred the longer the story goes on, and by the time we make a full circle (since the story visits the prologue again at the end) we're hoping that God (or someone) will intervene and make something positive out of all this abuse, death and cruelty.

Although I have read a lot of books that deal with black slavery in the southern States, this one touched me more than any other. It reminds me a lot of how I felt after I read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, over 10 years ago. A bit hopeless, a bit happy at the ending, and very emphatic with the characters.

I'm so glad that my book club picked this book to read! It was definitely horrible and appalling at times, but the family spirit and the love that emanates from it more than makes up for the cruelty found in some parts.

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Reading Progress

8.0% "Not a bad book so far. Deals with what seem to be slaves in the southern states and an Irish girl sent to them to work (or also be enslaved). Very well written so far; one of the best child's perspectives I've encountered."
17.0% "There is something so gripping about this book. I thought I had read most of the books in this genre already... but somehow this one is touching me."
20.0% "this doctor is fucked up... or was it just that normal to give opium to a woman just out of childbirth? Or just at all? continuously? There's something really wrong here."
23.0% "Okay, how screwed up is this era? the 'masta' isn't home for long periods of time due to business, so the tutor is sticking it to the son and messing up the slaves lives and the mother is doped up all the time. Please give me someone good, with power, who can set these horrible things to right!"
34.0% "Wow... Waters dead, Rankin being even more evil, Marshall turned into the evil that abused him, and then all the poor servants. I like how Martha is getting her act together, though!"
38.0% "Wow... what will happen if the captain would die of yellow fever? That would surely ruin everything for everyone in the book!!"
50.0% "wow, what can still happen in this book? Half way through and it feels like the gist of the story is done with. An Uncle Tom's Cabin ending perhaps?"
55.0% ""Once I was settled with him, I would send for her and Jamie." So living with white people for a few years has turned Lavinia into a white mind as well. Now she's issuing orders and setting her own ideals on Belle's life. Lame."
58.0% "Lavinia threw off the odious Mr Boran, but now has to contend with Marshall, who is a very very very disturbed young man (although, after that childhood, I think I would be too). Oh why can't she be together with Will and Belle and Ben?! That would be so perfect!"
78.0% "it's getting worse and worse... :S Please let there be a happy end!"
79.0% "The women are so intunned with their own natures in this book. No matter what age they are, they all have that maternal, caring instinct which speaks so much for humanity. The men, on the other hand, more or less all seem to be cruel and heartless and greedy."
85.0% ":S Things just get worse and worse and worse and I'm dragged in and I can#t stop reading and I want things to be good again!"
89.0% "The saddest part is, most of the time slaves were treated this badly. Usually by the overseer, but if you had a cruel master you saw you as property and not as a person, like it as not you'd be treated as such. It hurts me to read this book."
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