Review: The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grisson

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I love books that are historical fiction, and was surprised to hear that this was Grisson’s first novel. It’s about a white woman who grows up as a servant girl on a plantation, experiencing life from that perspective. Yes, the book does have stereotypes and they can come across strong at times – but – the writing was really well done, and I loved the story. It was one of those books I couldn’t put down.

The life of the servant girl is one of a lot of pain and heartache. Lavinia loses her parents while on a ship from Ireland, and is taken in by the servants of the plantation. She witnesses all of the horrible things that happen at “the big house” and eventually as she gets older, she moves from the servants quarters to the big house because of the colour of her skin. She’s shown that she is not like the servants, even though she has no desire to treat them ill or begrudge them in any way for her upbringing.

The book isn’t sunshine and roses that’s for sure. There’s a LOT of heartache that goes on, a lot of angst and pain. Life was hard, and Grisson does a wonderful job of conveying that feeling. The characters are colourful and detailed, and you really get a sense of what the plantation would be like – something that almost always pulls me into a book.

Highly recommended, though keep in mind it does follow stereotypes and isn’t a very happy novel. I still feel that the writing style and the story itself is able to overcome these things.

4/5 stars

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