Sure we’ve all read about Freedom and Mockingjay but we likely have a book we wish would get more attention by book bloggers, whether it’s a forgotten classic or an under- marketed contemporary fiction. This is your chance to tell the community why they should consider reading this book!
Historical fiction tends to get a fairly large nod from book bloggers, as it typically crosses several genres, from action to intrigue to romance. Philippa Gregory’s The Red Queen saw a large amount of headlines thanks to bloggers, as did The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott and The Postmistress, as well as Michelle Moran’s novels. One of my favorite books of the year is one that did not generate buzz in the way that I had hoped it would and would definitely be considered one of my forgotten treasures of the past twelve months.
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom is historical fiction at its finest. Take a well-known subject matter, add in a shocking twist, add a dash of realism and deft writing and you get one killer story. Ms. Grissom delivers just that with her debut novel about growing up as a white indentured servant on a plantation that owns slaves. From my review:
“Ms. Grissom has created an engaging page-turner that made me part of Virginia in the 1810s. The images of Tall Oaks, Williamsburg, and plantation life in general is so clear that I felt as if I was watching a movie rather than reading a novel. Not only that, but Ms. Grissom is able to elicit an extremely strong emotional response through her well-researched portrayal of plantations, slavery, and indentured servitude. There is a sense of foreboding that builds and greatly contributes to the overall story. Ms. Grissom’s greatest strength lies in her ability to utilize the imagination of the reader to help tackle the true difficult situations around abuse and mental health, for a reader’s imagination will always be worse than what the author can portray with words. This ability to leave much of the specifics to the reader’s imagination strengthens the overall message behind power, love, and family.”
“While slavery and indentured servitude are the backdrop to Lavinia’s and Belle’s stories, make no mistake that the main point of The Kitchen House is family. What makes a family? Is it blood only? What are your obligations to blood relatives? Are they greater than obligations to others you consider family? Should they be greater? Ms. Grissom explores the idea of family and its ties through Lavinia’s struggles to adapt to her servitude and then to her emergence into the “white” world. It permeates all decisions made by each of the characters and presents the reader with many questions about the essence of family.”
“Slavery and servitude are not easy topics, but Ms. Grissom handles both with reality and care. She does not gloss over the more evil aspects of either one, nor does she romanticize them. Her matter-of-fact treatment of both situations allows the reader to learn more about them while not getting bogged down into the moral complexity of either issue. A reader is left with a sense of the differences and similarities of both, highlighting the freedoms afforded Lavinia that Belle and her family would never be able to achieve, whether it is fair or not. It truly is an interesting glimpse into two institutions that were all too common in colonial America.”
If you have not yet had the opportunity to check out Ms. Grissom’s novel, I highly recommend it. The questions raised and the lessons learned are well worth the time spent reading it.