I’m usually too lazy to blog about the books that I read and like, but in this case, I have to do it … for your own good!
We had our monthly book club meeting last week to discuss our latest selection, The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan.
From the description, I thought I was going to love this book:
Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.
In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying Grace and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize has exceeded capacity. For any to live, some must die.
As the castaways battle the elements and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she’d found. Will she pay any price to keep it?
THE LIFEBOAT is a page-turning novel of hard choices and survival, narrated by a woman as unforgettable and complex as the events she describes.
You all know our family’s obsession with Titanic. Sadly, this book bored me to tears. It had a lot of nuggets of interesting sections, characters and themes, but then it would get so bogged down in the main character’s annoying voice.
Most of us at book club had similar feelings on it, but I was surprised it led to some pretty interesting conversations. Just goes to show — reading a book, any book, is never a waste of time!
As we sat around at the end of the night, we started throwing out ideas for next month’s selection. We came up with the following books:
I sent around a survey to our members using Survey Monkey’s free account, and everyone has until Wednesday to make their choice. But as soon as I read the description for The Kitchen House, I knew I was going to read that book.
When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family.
Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.
Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.
The Kitchen House is a tragic story of page-turning suspense, exploring the meaning of family, where love and loyalty prevail.
From the opening prologue, which the author says she very quickly wrote after discovering something called “Negro Hill” on a map of an old plantation she and her husband were restoring, I was hooked. It was gripping from the start.
The book alternated storytellers between Lavinia and Belle. I haven’t read anything before about white indentured servants in the pre-Civil War South, and it was fascinating. The book just seemed so authentic and of course, it was devastating. The author carefully examines a lot of the differences that existed between the different classes of slaves, including between house slaves and field slaves.
And whenever I read anything like this, as a woman and the mother of a daughter, I just thank God again that I was born in this country and in this century. I know we still have A LONG way to go but to realize just how few choices women of all colors had in our recent history, well, it makes you grateful to be alive now and it breaks your heart for our sisters who came before us.
I never know how to blog about books I love because I really don’t want to give anything away. All I’ll say is: read this book. You’re going to fall in love with these characters like I did. I find I can’t stop thinking about them and wondering how the rest of their lives turned out. The author, who is a first-time author, by the way, says in the reading guide that she’s already mulling the idea of a sequel because she can’t get their stories out of her head either.
I must now find a way to stalk her and demand that she write it just for me.
This was also one of those books that I kept picturing how great the movie could be as I was reading it. Besides, we all know Hollywood doesn’t like to make movies about African-Americans without a strong white lead (**cough, cough “The Help,” cough, cough).
Want to know how much I loved this book? I started it late last week, and read it as much as I could during our busy weekend. On Sunday, I went to bed at 10:30, “just to read a little bit.” I was dead tired from a full day of running 5 miles, lugging 4 loads of laundry to the laundromat (stupid broken dryer), hitting a plant show, planting said flowers, going to buy 10 bags of mulch — which I loaded and unloaded into the car myself — then spreading it around our yard, then doing the dinner/bath/bedtime routine.
Yet I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. to finish the book because I could not put it down. Seriously. I turend the lights off twice, trying to force myself to sleep but my mind kept racing with the book.
That’s when you know you’ve found the good stuff.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been sucked into a good book like that, and it was such a pleasure.
God I love to read.
What’s the best book you’ve read lately? I need to feed my reignited addiction! Are you a fan of historical fiction, too? I think it’s probably my favorite genre.