New American Historical Fiction

A Reader's Respite struggles with American historical fiction.  Let's face it, 233 years isn't very much to draw from.  So historical fiction set in America is usually lumped in the Western genre or tends to romanticize the Civil War.

Author Kathleen Grissom, though, chose to set her novel entitled The Kitchen House on a small Virginia tobacco plantation in years 1791 through 1810, which we found unique and intriguing.  The story is told from the point of view of two women: Lavinia, an Irish indentured servant girl, and Belle, the mulatto daughter of the plantation owner.

Grissom opens the novel with a terrifying prologue, then skips back ten years to recount the events that led up to the prologue.  She tells the story via Lavinia and Belle in alternating chapters.  A Reader's Respite enjoyed this technique for the most part, although we soon were keenly aware that Belle's chapters were significantly shorter than Lavinia's chapters - and for no discernible reason, which gave a slightly one-sided feel to the novel.

The great crux of the story is one giant family secret that leads to assumptions which leads to tragedy.  While that is a fantastic premise, the principle characters had 384 pages and countless opportunities to correct the wrong assumptions.  Of course they didn't and that's what furthered the plot, but this became slightly frustrating after 200 pages or so. 

Aside from that, Grissom clearly excels at characterization.  Motivations are key to understanding characters in this novel and the development of each character pushes the plot along at a nice pace.

Don't look for national politics or events of the time to play a large role in this story.  Rather, it is a microcosm of a society that justifies slavery of fellow human beings and the unavoidable fall-out that must follow.

Not a great novel, but a good one and we do recommend it.


Sound like something you'd be interested in reading?  Leave us a comment and on February 23rd, we'll draw one random winner to receive our every-so-slightly used copy, which came to us from the publisher.  And that, my friends, is a FTC disclosure and a giveaway in one sentence.  A Reader's Respite excels at multi-tasking.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Fire away!