Book: The Kitchen House
Author: Kathleen Grissom
Recommended to: perpetrators of stereotypes.
"Book Club Favorite" is a sure sell when a book it trying to get me to read it. I love my book club, I love favorites, and I love books. What I didn't love was The Kitchen House. This book sucked a bag of donkey dicks. Maybe just a small lunch sack, but still, a whole bag.
The Kitchen House is Kathleen Grissom's first book and you can really tell. She had such a good idea for the plot. A young white Irish girl is indentured to a plantation owner and works in the kitchen with the house slaves. There are also quarters slaves who work in the fields, but these do not feature prominently. The book follows Lavinia's whole life with short chapters from Lavinia's childhood caretaker, Belle.
Here are my issues with the book:
First, the dialogue. The only characters that speak in this book are the black characters and their speech is so sterotypically "slave speech" that it was distracting and disgusting. When a white character is involved, they rarely speak; instead its just narrative that describes what the white people are doing. It was so weird. Even Belle, the slave that could read, and write spoke in this terrible southern dialect that was so awfully contrived that I cringed while reading it. It was not convincing and not good.
Second, a bad thing happens to the at least one of the characters in this book every 15 pages or so. The book is 300 plus pages which means there are 20 disastrous events that take place in the book. It was exhausting. It is absolutely true that horrible things happened on plantations all the time, but it felt like this author was just going for shock value instead of historical accuracy and all of these terrible events made me want the book to be over.
Third, the romances in this book are horrible. It cannot be true that there was no communication in 1806. One person loves another person, but they think that person loves someone else, so they marry a third person and really that third person is the secret brother of the next person. Why can't they just open their mouths and say what they are frigging thinking for once? How hard is it to say, "yeah I really like him, but I think he is the father of my pseudo-mother's baby, so I feel that that would be inappropriate." Do you know how much time that would save? About 100 pages, easy.
Number three is actually one of my pet peeves in books. Communication failure is not an effective plot device. It is a device used in crappy romance novels that they sell for 2 bucks at walmart, it is not the stuff of well-written books.
Fourth, the short chapters from Belle were strange. They were all about two pages and didn't seem to add much to the story except to give the reader information that they could never have gotten from Lavinia's perspective. Although that information was valuable, a third person narrative account with good dialogue would have served the same purpose and likely would have turned out better.
This book got a C- because it had lots of potential. I hadn't read something before about indentured servitude and that's why I picked it up. Unfortunately there was very little about the history of indentured servitude in this book.
So, read at your own risk I guess. Yet another below average review for this blog, but I have to admit they are much more fun to write!