This week, completely by accident and not design, I read exclusively historical fiction, my favorite genre. There’s a backlist title I have been meaning to read, a new book out today, and the book I’m calling my favorite of all time. I hope you see something you’d like to read!
This is the story of a white child, raised by black slaves on a tobacco plantation, indentured to the owner of the plantation after her parents’ deaths. As she grows older, the child, Lavinia, becomes part of the white society and struggles to find her place in a world where the people who she considers her family have no human rights.
The story is told in alternating parts by Lavinia and by Belle, the slave woman who raises her. As I’ve said before, I really enjoy the dual narratives when they work, and this does. I’ve read a lot of historical fiction set in the times of slavery, but not much about indentured whites during this time. I think the author did such a great job of showing how ridiculous and wrong slavery looks from a child’s perspective. Lavinia really struggles to understand her place in the world, and to help elevate the position of her adopted family.
There is a companion book to this called Glory Over Everything, which tells the story of one of the minor characters from this book. I may give that one a try, as I’ve heard that it answers some lingering questions I have at the end of The Kitchen House.
This story begins in Manila, in 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and America’s entrance into WWII. Louise, an American nurse working in a Manila hospital, has to help her patients evacuate the city in front of a Japanese invasion. The evacuation goes wrong however, and the American patients, soldiers, and medical staff are forced to retreat into the mountains to avoid being captured by the Japanese. Along the way, they meet an injured Japanese soldier, who Louise insists they help, against the wishes of the other Americans. Eventually we learn more about the Japanese soldier and his feelings about his country and the war. What seems to be an issue of black and white, right and wrong, turns out to be a very gray area, as friendships are formed between people who should be enemies.
This story started off a little slow for me, however, once I got into the book, I read it in two sittings and really enjoyed it. I love historical fiction, especially from this time period, but have not read much about the war in the Philipines. It was a new and interesting perspective and I found myself searching the Internet for more information.
I was especially pleased with the ending. As I was getting down to the last 30 pages or so, I thought, “This is going to be wrapped up way too fast, and in a totally predictable way”. That was definitely not the case. I thought the author did a great job with the ending, which made me appreciate the book even more. I thought the actions and emotions of the characters, and the relationships between them, were very believable. This was the first book by Michael Wallace that I’ve read, and I’m looking forward to reading more by him.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a free copy of this book. It is a pleasure to give my honest review. This book is available June 6th.
This was a reread of what is possibly my favorite book of all time. It’s the story of Francie Nolan and her family, living in Brooklyn, NY from 1912- 1919. They are a poor family, the father struggles with alcoholism and the mother works many jobs to try to feed her family. Francie has to deal with all the hardships and prejudice that come with being poor, first generation Americans. As a child, my life could not have been more different than Francie’s. And yet, I always felt that if she had been a real person, and we met, we would have understood each other perfectly. I haven’t read this in a few years, and there is always the fear when rereading a book that it won’t be as good as you remembered. Nothing to fear here – I read the last page Sunday night and put the book down with a happy sigh. Francie and I still understand each other. If you’ve never read this classic, do yourself a favor and pick it up; you’ll be happy you did.
That’s all for this week – leave me a comment and share what you’ve been reading lately!