Friday, June 24, 2011

The Kitchen House

One of my daughters recommended The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom after she had read it for her book group.  I initially had some trouble getting interested in the book, but stuck with it and soon was unable to put it down!  The Kitchen House begins in 1791 and is narrated alternately by the two main characters, Lavinia and Belle.  Lavinia is an orphaned seven year old indentured servant at the Tall Oaks plantation in Virginia.  Belle is the daughter of the master of the plantation and of one of his slave mistresses.  Belle works in the kitchen house and when Lavinia arrives, Belle becomes a big sister/mother to Lavinia.  Lavinia is raised among the kitchen house slaves, who become her family.  The book covers about twenty years as Belle and Lavinia go on to live different but intertwined lives.  As Lavinia becomes older, she is sent to live with her mistresses' sister and her family, where she is taught how to live in the "white world".  Eventually, Lavinia makes her way back to Tall Oaks as an adult.  Meanwhile, Belle is left at Tall Oaks to endure a slave's life there.
Over the twenty years the violence, and corruption of the plantation is a strong contrast to the love and sense of family that exists on the plantation. It was very interesting to read about slavery in the early 1800's, compared to most of what I have read of slavery during the Civil War times.
Belle and Lavinia were both very interesting, likable characters.  I really cared about what happened to them.  I would love to read a sequel to this book to learn of what became of all of the characters.  All of the characters were interesting and rather well-developed by the least enough so that the reader is left wanting more information about them!

I found the Author's Note at the end of the book to be quite fascinating.  She wrote: "A few years ago, my husband and I restored an old plantation tavern in Virginia.  While researching its past, I found an old map on which, near our home, was a notation: Negro Hill.  Unable to determine the story of its origin, local historians suggested that it most likely suggested a tragedy."

She went on to say that after a few months of pondering Negro Hill, she was inspired to begin writing a story about it, which became the prologue of the book.  From there, the book began to take off in her mind! 

I am so envious of anyone who can write a book!  Why can't I be so inspired and able?  Thank goodness, there are many that can do that!

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