1791: 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 to apart from them by her white skin.
And so begins The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, a gripping story of slavery in the South of the USA, but from a unique (certainly to me) perspective, that of a white indentured servant. By using Lavinia as one of her narrators, Kathleen Grissom is able to show both sides of the divide, the drudgery and poor treatment of the slaves, but also life among the white family at the big house, which is tainted by tragedy and bitterness.
The book begins with a very dramatic prologue, which seems to give the whole game away and lets you know immediately that tragedy lies in all the characters’ future, but even to the very end, nothing is as it would appear. It’s very cleverly woven tale, beautifully written, and with some heartbreakingly real characters, especially among Lavinia’s adopted family. It’s definitely one to recommend.
As an aside, I can’t review The Kitchen House without commenting on the book itself. I was sent a hard-back copy, as pictured, and I thought it was just beautiful. Done in the style of books of the early 19th Century, it’s was a beautiful thing to look at and hold, as well as read!
For more information about Kathleen and this and her future projects, take a look at her website.