In The Kitchen House, author Kathleen Grissom weaves together the stories of two women: Lavinia, an Irish immigrant who, in 1791, arrives alone in America at 7-years-old and becomes an indentured servant on a Virginia tobacco plantation, and Belle, the slave who takes care of her. Narrators Orlagh Cassidy and Bahni Turpin (known for her work as Minny in The Help) alternate chapters, so listeners get the same story from two very different perspectives both with their own unique voice. Both Lavinia’s Irish accent and Belle’s southern dialect are smooth and authentic, and as both characters interact with the same group of people, the narrators keep the secondary voices consistent; they can manage the white-collar accent of a Philadelphia society girl, the dangerous undertones of a malicious slave owner, and the distinctive voices of each of the plantation’s slaves with equal confidence.
Grissom, who says she was inspired by her own modern-day renovation of a Virginia plantation, fills the novel with careful details, historical touches, and believable racial and political tensions. As Lavinia grows up, she finds herself caught between the slaves that raised her and the white world that waits for her and her tone, naïve and uncomprehending when she’s not allowed to sit with her black friends in church as a child, matures along with her. She sounds weary and resigned (though still optimistic) when, as an adult, she faces similar challenges. As Belle navigates complicated relationships with her lover, parents, and siblings, the reading remains convincing, emotional, and satisfying. And when a generation of closely-held secrets leads to danger and tragedy for both women, each is forced to choose where her loyalties lay. Blythe Copeland
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.
©2010 Kathleen Grissom (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Forget Gone With the Wind. Belle and Lavinia, the heroines in this novel, will make Scarlett seem like a wimp in comparison….Together they narrate a story that grabs the reader and demands to be devoured. Wow.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“[Grissom’s] debut twists the conventions of the antebellum novel....Provides a trove of tension and grit, while the many nefarious doings will keep readers hooked to the twisted, yet hopeful, conclusion.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Kathleen Grissom peers into the plantation romance through the eyes of a white indentured servant inhabiting the limbo land between slavery and freedom, providing a tale that provokes new empathy for all working and longing in The Kitchen House.” (Alice Randall, author of The Wind Done Gone and Rebel Yell)
I picked this book because I really enjoyed Gone with the Wind and it was suggested to me by many websites as a similar listen. I did not expect the rape scenes to go into deep detail. I expect it in mystery and horror books but not in "period fiction". The result of the abuse weaves its way through a sordid story with uninteresting characters. I can understand conflict and I can understand the need to be authentic however, Gone with the Wind is so much better and there are no explicit violent scenes. It was as if I was watching a movie about an antebellum household and then, suddenly, a pornographic photo flashes across the screen - some details are just too much and do not match the tone or pacing of the book. I am still shocked at all the positive reviews. If you like watching Law and Order SVU for the horrible sick to your stomach feeling, then you might like The Kitchen House.
I'm ususally very stingy with a 5 star rating, but this one deserved it. The narration was amazing, the story drew me in and I miss the characters now that I've finished the book. this was an amazing glimse into slavery in the south.
I have listened to many books and this one is I will remember always. The narration was fantastic. I can't recommend it highly enough.
I was sad when I came to the end of this audible book. What a story, and what a well researched book! This book packs a full punch; be prepared to be living fully in the lives of these amazing characters. The story alternates between Lavinia, a white indentured girl, and Belle, the mixed race slave. As soon as I finished this book, I immediately bought my daughter a copy. She is totally absorbed she said, and deeply drawn into the story and it's characters. Can't wait for a second book from this author.
this is some wonderful writing and even better narration. I can happily recommend it to any who love a good yarn and especially those who like historical fiction. My only quibble -- and I'm particularly persnickety about this -- is that at times it was a big TOO dramatic.
Great story, loved the readers. I was afraid this would be similar to The Help and it wasn't. I'm not one to tear up on books, but this moved me.
Enjoy reading books, but no time so this is an amazing alternative.
This was a story that captured me from the moment it started. The narration was terrific and the majority of the characters were believable. There were moments when the tension was such I had to turn my iPod off for a bit.
However, I wanted to throttle Lavinia, the female lead character. Really, can anyone be so blind and meek and naive? It took some of the joy away from the book.
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