I ended this book with very mixed feelings - it was riveting enough to keep me from being productive around the house, it is masterfully narrated by great readers, and it certainly debunks the myths of the noble plantation master.
But there were several plot lines that stretched credulity - that a white child (indentured servant) would be so readily trusted throughout a slave community in an unstable household, that this child could grow up to tempt marriage offers from two members of the landed gentry of the area (a simple farmer, yes, but to see Virginians crossing class lines is hard to believe), and that this same individual could miss facts right under her nose and keep silent about other crucial facts for decades.
One reviewer described it as a Gothic novel - and that it is, combining alcoholism, pedophilia, laudunum addiction, sadism, lots of melodrama around lost children and parents, a Bronte-like house fire, and a heroine who maintains her purity of spirit throughout the perils that await her. You can almost envision her tied to railroad tracks.
And although the main protagonist certainly suffers from the dastardly deeds at the hands of her own Simon Legree, it is difficult as a listener to feel much compassion for her since what's happening to the slaves on this plantation is far worse and somewhat glossed over by the way the author keeps having them bounce back from being victimized by extreme brutality to resume their roles as sad-but-wise-and-loving house servants. The author waxes between fascinating and believable detail (field slaves stealing boards from the smokehouse to boil to get salt into their food) and hackneyed stereotypes of a mammy. I ended up giving Grissom credit for trying to be honest about slavery and forgave her the fall into stereotypes, but other readers might not.
I just loved this book! Great narrators, great storyline, great pacing. If you love family sagas and historic-based fiction, this is for you. I was hooked from the first line. Enjoy!
I purchased this to listen to in my car, but it was so good that I had to bring in my mp3 player and listen to it while I was cleaning the house and doing other things at home. I wasn't too happy with the way that it ended, but right up until the end I could not stop listening to it.
Would recommend to all! Could not stop listening!!
Story of slavery & the attitudes of masters toward their slaves with the cruelty and the kindness...so interesting!!!!
Knowledge is knowing the way. Wisdom is looking for an alternative, more interesting road to get there. Audiobooks are that road.
The Kitchen House succeeded in transporting me to 1790 Virginia, where the Capitan takes in 7-year-old Lavinia, a white-orphaned Irish immigrant as a servant. Lavinia however, would eventually make it to an upgraded status because of her colour.
Belle, a strong, authentic character with a giant personality and a thick southern black drawl suffers great tragedies because of her position as black property. The story and character development are so rich as this drama unfolds, I could feel the helplessness, fear and pride of each of the slaves in my gut. Some of the slaves/servants live in The Big House with the Captain and his wife Martha, and the others live in the The Kitchen House.
This book was difficult to get through, yet just a hard to put down. Not too many light moments. Grissom skillfully depicts the desperation of these people who you come to know through rape, torture, murder, incest, physical and mental abuse and opiate addiction. As the reader you watch as Lavinia grows up and leaves her black family, Mamma Mae, Papa George, Belle, and the rest of the slaves. Because she is white, she is offered education and status, and settles for marrying Marshall, son of the Captain and Martha so she can return to the only home and family she ever knew. Marshall, a stereotypical villain, inherits his parents’ plantation and Lavinia thinks life will be grand back with Mama, Papa and the twins Beattie and Fanny. A cruel and abusive alcoholic, Marshall mentally and physically abuses Lavinia or “Abinia,” as her slave family calls her, and she becomes increasingly weak and shallow. I truly wish Grissom did not take this well-rounded character that had so much potential, and turn her into a flat, depthless wuss. That’s where the book lost some momentum for me. The other characters remained strong and convicted right to the end.
The impeccable historical research, coupled with the heart-wrenching story is what makes this book so “grab out and pull you in” realistic. Glad I didn’t pass this one up.
I can't say enough about the performance. Orlagh Cassidy and Bahni Turpin are what makes audiobooks so wonderful. They took a great book and turned it into a masterpiece. Bravo!
I don't think of myself as a huge fan of historical fiction, but this book was really great. I agree that if you liked "The Help," you will also enjoy this book. The only flaw I could see was that the last few chapters seemed very rushed, without the tremendous attention to detail and character development typical of the vast majority of the novel. I still give it a big thumbs up! Unlike some historical fiction, the characters were so well drawn out that it was easy to relate to them even when living in an entirely different time. You understood their motivations, their hopes and their dreams. I will listen to this book again, I am certain!
Yowza. The black characters walked right out of "Gone With The Wind." There's a Mammy and an old Uncle Tom and even a Prissy. These are some awfully happy slaves, who laugh at their work and talk back to the master, etc. Just hit my ear wrong. If you want to read excellent books about relations between slaves and their white masters read "The Confession of Nat Turner" or "The Known World" (that one is great, and is about a black master and his slaves). Skip this melodramatic, poorly conceived potboiler.
I bought this book because I absolutely love "The Help." The premise for this story is really interesting, about an Irish orphan girl who lives and works with slaves on a plantation. But I had to stop listening to "The Kitchen House" because it devolved into a series of awful, terrible, sickening events--and dread about what horrible thing would happen next. Yuck, give me a break.
Although I thought that THE HELP was better narrated,THE KITCHEN HOUSE has more depth. Another human interest story about the injustice of human enslavement and particularly of
Black people. But THE KITCHEN HOUSE had a broader scope about the limited freedom of all the most vulnerable: the poor and uneducated as well as vulnerable youth, and women as a whole.
There are many surprising twists and turns in this story. I found myself rooting for triumph over evil, but the happy ending never did come...it was quite depressing really.
I am an avid "reader"- I prefer to listen to books rather than read them due to the added dimension added by the narrator.
I could feel these characters in my bones. Lavinia, Mama, Belle, Marshall, all of them were as real as anyone I have ever met. An intimate look into life in the south in the late 1700's and early 1800's, this book warmed my heart, broke my heart and renewed my heart... all in one. I highly recommend this to anyone. Bravo to the readers!