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.
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 read this book (and listened--a combination of the two) with complete astonishment that it that has received such near-universal rave reviews. It is shockingly racist and full of stereotypes that should have stopped being acceptable decades ago. A heroine whose husband is raping a slave girl--and yet continues to focus her anger on the victim. Who spends the entire book coming up with reasons why she is blameless for her part in slavery--and continues to compare her situation (even after she has become the mistress of the house) as equal to that of the slaves who are routinely raped, beaten, and killed. Convenient random "and then this happened" to fix flaws in the story. Dialogue that reads like a cheap dime store romance. Shallow plotlines that trivialize mental illness and addiction--with characters coming in and out of each when it is convenient for the story.
This book perpetuates stereotypes of the kind slavemaster and slaves who fight against freedom because they don't want to leave "home" and their kind keepers. Even in the end, freed slaves gladly stay to work for free to support a mistress who is held completely unaccountable by the story (or these characters) for her deliberate ignorance of how her actions (and inaction) and refusal to see how her looking past what is right in front of her face has contributed to their plight. The "heroine" (Lavinia) isn't plucky or likeable or sympathetic in any way.
Narration was good--particularly Turpin's, who made a ridiculous character almost realistic.
This may be the worst book I have ever read to the end. The reviews (and it being the only downloaded book I took with me on a lengthy trip) kept me going long after I should have thrown it away in disgust.
I read and listen to books. I drink tea. I sleep like a cat and wished I lived in Hawaii.
I also want to say off the bat that this book shouldn't be compared to "The Help". This book is a much different story than "The Help". It takes place in Virginia on a slave plantation in the late 1700's, while "The Help" takes place in Mississippi in the 1960's. They are both amazing books, but not similar except that they both deal with injustice and cruelty towards black people.
The basic plot was intriguing. The idea of a young white orphan girl being taken to live on a slave plantation and placed under the care of the slaves is a unique take on this time period. Lavinia, the orphan, was a very likable and naive character. I thought that maybe the slaves would resent her more since she lived and worked in their midst, but they took her in and loved her like she was their own. Maybe they realized how helpless she was. This book had strong characters, both wonderful and despicable. The kitchen house characters brought the life into this book, e.g. Mama, Belle, Papa George, Fanny, Gertie, Ben, Sukie, etc. I just wanted to hug Mama and sit with her, push Rankin off a cliff into shark filled waters and shake Lavinia once in a while to wake her up to the reality that she sometimes missed in her naivete towards what it meant to be white and what it meant to be black. Lavinia was a white girl… no matter how much she identified with the slaves she loved. Lavinia also learned that even though she was white, she was very powerless in her plight to help her kitchen house "family" from the cruelty of slavery. This book was horrifying and brutal and heartbreaking, but I found it to be so good that I couldn't stop listening. I enjoyed the way the book switched between Lavinia and Belle. I liked getting Belle's perspective in addition to Lavinia's. Bahni Turpin did an excellent job of narrating Belle, but I had mixed feelings on Orlagh Cassidy's narration of Lavinia. I don't know if she was the best choice for the job, but she was good enough. The book ended a bit too quickly in my opinion. I could have used another 10 minutes of detail from that last chapter.
On a side note, if you listen to this audiobook, take the time to listen to the last few minutes of the author speaking about her motivation and passion for writing this book. It was very interesting.
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!
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!!!!
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.
This book shows that slavery comes in many forms. Indentured servants, slaves and even wives who find out their husbands are not what they thought and end up in a marriage where they are less free than many slaves. In the 1700s, on a Virginia tobacco plantation, a young Irish immigrant girl finds herself living among African American slaves who become her family. They run the "Kitchen House" and serve the people in the "big" house. She eventually lives in the big house herself but finds she is closer to a slave when living in the big house as a "free" woman than she was when living with the African Americans in the kitchen house. Great listen, plenty of action and very good narration.
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.
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
This is one of my favorite audio books . . . for the honesty in which it is written, for the wonderful characters, for the way it depicts that integrity is much deeper than the color of our skins . . . was back then, still is today . . . makes me recall one of the verses in the Bible, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to go to heaven. Not because of his money, but because of how much he LOVES his money . . . and how unwillingness he is to part with it . . . This book has some really difficult parts to listen to, but they are necessary. Powerful people used (and still use) other people, black and white alike. This is a lesson in America's history . . . and not a proud one.