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)
Quite a long way down the list.
Did not listen to the end.
The readers were very good, story content the downer.
This book deals with man's inhumanity to man. Surely the author could have included at least one uplifting sequence. Bad choice on my part.
Sara A :)
Loved this book. The narrators were awesome with the accents. Great story about the history of indentured servants and slavery. I thought it would be depressing but I found I couldn't stop listening!
I loved it's unpredictability.
Belle, I loved her voice.
Lovinia and Elly coming up on the smoldering house.
I wouldn't rename it.
It will be with me forever.
Have not read the print version so I cannot compare the two, as a truck driver I prefer to listen while I drive.
Lavinia was my favorite character mainly because the book seems to be centered around her more than the other characters in the story.
It is hard to pick one scene out of the book that I would call my favorite.
I don't think I would rename this book.
The author did a great job in writing this book and it was one of those that I had to keep listening to to see what would happen next. There is something in this story that just keeps you wanting more.
The story held me throughout, believeable, not overly romantic, very, very human. The author did an excellent job on creating the 'atmosphere' that made me able to picture the scenes.
We would rank it an 8 out 10..
The era and the whole slave experiences were a new awareness to how the black people werertreated and loved by their masters.
We enjoy the use of different readers during the book...it really helps to allow the mind to create a picture of the person speaking.
I love the name The Kitchen House! That is what drew me to it...human interest story with historical lesson included.
This was only the 2nd book on tape (i put on my ipod) and I have yet to find another to compare! Intense story...but so so so amazing....highly recommend!!!!
The only other so far that I loved as much...would be The Help!
The Kitchen House is the perfect name...
WOW that is hard to say but there was a lot going on and the book moved me.
The way it depicted the difference in the lives of the help and the owners, we I HOPE have grown more then it was back then
The whole book was very good so the whole story was something I wanted to keep on reading but alas sleep won out...hahaha
Wife, mom, full-time employee, food blogger... reading is my addiction. I love audible books during my commutes and doing chores!
The narrator did a great job. The story grabbed my interest from the beginning, but I have to say that this isn't the most uplifting story of all time. In fact, there were times I struggled through getting past all the cruelty. You can't wear rose colored glasses, while reading this book, because the story didn't end as I had hoped it would. I won't give it away, but at the very end I found myself wishing things would tie up neatly-- and more happily. Overall, I liked Lavinia's character, her strength and integrity.
The story was well laid out, the characters developed very well. Yet it was set up after set up. There would be a soft portion then wham! you're hit again with another deep tragedy. The narrator spoke increasingly in a monotone, as though even she didn't dare to let the mood rise for too long. I began to think this was book of sadness for sadness's sake. The relentless sadness didn't seem to support the difficulty of the character's lives. The sadness became an overshadowing reality that no matter how well a character met her or his challenges, and they did often meet their challenges, never had a chance to overcome the veil. I would not recommend this book.
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