Thursday, May 2, 2013

Playing With History

Playing With History is a monthly column dedicated to books that are history based, but with a fictional plot. I tend to gravitate toward Henry the VIII's England or the Italian Renaissance, but here or there I plan to step out of my usual if the plot sounds promising enough. I will use our usual rating of Bookshelf, Library Bag or Donation Box.

 The Kitchen House is a novel by Kathleen Grissom about Lavinia, a young Irish immigrant who is sold into indentured servitude on a Southern tobacco plantation when her parents die aboard the ship on the way over to America. She's immediately put to work in the kitchen house alongside the slaves who are assigned there. They take her under their wing immediately, including Belle, the illegitimate daughter of the captain, who is the owner of the plantation. The novel tells both Lavinia's story as well as Belle's throughout the next thirteen years as Lavinia finds her place in plantation society and Belle fights to be free.

I haven't read a lot of books about the South, but I thought this one sounded interesting because I hadn't heard a lot about the indentured servants that came over to this country. Their plight was not nearly as terrible as those of the slaves, but it did open up an avenue we don't usually hear about. Lavinia's story is no different. She embodies the idea that hate is learned as it wasn't until she was a lot older that she understood the difference between her lot in life and those of the slaves. They were her family. That was that. 

The book does fall on typical stereotypes that come from this era, but I was able to forgive that because I liked the characters, even when I didn't. I felt a myriad of emotions for Marshall, the plantation owner's son was both heartbreaking at times, yet acted so reprehensible it was hard to remember that pity. Lavinia was a interesting heroine to follow as was Belle, the secondary narrator, who for all intents and purposes, becomes Lavinia's mother. The trials and tribulations of being the captain's daughter by a slave was tragic, especially as the captain's family had no idea of her relationship to him, thinking her his mistress.  

I would like to see a sequel to this story if even just to see Ms. Grissom leave the stereotypes behind and take us into a different direction and maybe a story that not so many horrible things happen that you become just a little desensitized. 

The Verdict

Bookshelf: I had a hard time picking between bookshelf and Library Bag, mostly because this book did have its faults; however, when a book stays with me even after I finish reading it, I think that gives it something extra. It isn't a perfect story, but one I would like to revisit.

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