Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Kitchen House

Oh Flower, Flower, Flower.

Sometimes a writer can make melodrama hit the spot and sometimes the relentless piling on of horrifying situations, evil doers, innocents ill-used and sexual abuse become merely a laundry list of really, really bad luck. This is what happens in The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom.

In 1791, seven year old Lavinia arrives in the U.S. She is an immigrant. Her parents died on the ship on the way over from Ireland (Not Good), she is separated from her brother (Bad), she is made an indentured servant at the tobacco plantation Tall Oaks by owner Captain Pyke (Worse) and at the plantation she is sent to work in the kitchen and to live with the slaves (She's a goner). Lavinia's strength and willingness eventually earn her the affection of the other kitchen slaves, especially Belle. Belle is the illegitimate, biracial daughter of Captain Pyke. Their regard for and loyalty to one another will be tested many times over the years.

At Tall Oaks----I have to interrupt here. Tall Oaks? Really? Did the author or the editor never read or see Gone With The Wind? Hello? Twelve Oaks? Is it a smart idea to constantly remind people as they read your book that it's not as good as Gone With The Wind ?---- Lavinia is ever the outsider. Among the slaves she is white and among the whites she is a slave. Grissom effectively uses this slight twist to bring a different perspective to the usual goings on in an antebellum novel but it's not enough to raise The Kitchen House up into anything special.

Kathleen Grissom rounds out this predictable melodrama with a vicious overseer, the laudanum addicted Mrs. Pyke, a psychopathic heir, an understand and heroic neighbor and slaves struggling to survive without drawing attention to themselves. There are escapes, betrayals, violence, yellow fever, rape and secrets, secrets, secrets. Occasionally some interesting moments in The Kitchen House show up and the books moves along at a quick pace but that doesn't make up for underdeveloped characters and a storyline that would be old in a Mary Pickford movie.

Happy to be moving onto the next book
P.S. That cover? zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..............

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