Book Reviews Historicals Literature

The Kitchen House- Kathleen Grissom

I am not a fan of novels about slavery for the only reason that they always leave me in tears and more often than not I have to take a breather to continue. What Grissom had done in this book is so different from any such novel of the genre that I have read before. The slavery is there but it is the characters that truly gets to you. The story is largely about family even more-so than the slavery. Mind you, Slavery will always be evil, no matter how it is expressed whether from the Black or White point of view.

the kitchen house

Grissom’s debut novel is great success. The story she weaves about two very different character; Lavinia and Belle are so similar but yet so different.


In the late 1700s a white screaming, seven-year old Irish orphan was brought to the Virginia plantation by the Master Captain Pyke to work as an indentured servant. That child was sent to live with the Slaves in the house where all the cooking takes place to be looked after by Belle, the mulatto Kitchen girl.  As Lavinia settles with in the Kitchen house and adapts to plantation life, we learn through her narration along with Belles the story of the inhabitants of the Big House. Lavinia grew up among the slave and considered herself one of them. They knew differently though because no matter how much she thought she was a part of the slave population she was still a white girl.  Lavinia in her teenage years and after the death of the master was sent to live in the city. It was here that she came to realize the differences when she returned to the plantation she was forbidden to have any relationship with the only people she could call family.

‘I was as enslaved as all the others.’ Lavinia

Lavinia now the mistress of the Big house must act as thus and her life became one miserable day after the next.  Belle again became the protagonists. she was sold to the neighboring plantation and her son taken away from her. Things on the plantation gets worse as the master drinks and abuse the slaves and a rebellion seems inevitable.  The story culminates as the novel began, with a hanging of a slave witnessed by a little girl.

the big house

It took me a great deal of time  to complete this review. I wanted to say so much about the book but afraid to give spoilers so in the end it took me two months for it to graduate from my draft.

This novel tackles slavery from the point of view of a White Irish and a Slave Mulatto girl whose father was the former owner of the plantation. The reader witness brutality from the eyes of a child and later an abused wife who was just as much a slave as her black family of the plantation.