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)
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.
A whole other view of Southern history - that of the indentured, white servant. Learned a little, laughed a little, cried a little. Excellent story.
I actually listened to it in only two sittings. I had a long drive, and it took the time up for both legs of the trip. made the 12 hour journey fly by.
The story did keep my interest, and the narrators are excellent. However, I just couldn't help being irritated with this self-absorbed white girl. She watches as people she loves are tortured, slaves with no hope of freedom, yet she whines about the expectations put on her because she is white! Then she acts shocked by the violence every time, as if it had never happened before. I did keep listening and wanted to know what happened, but Lavinia's naivete and self-absorption made her an unlikeable narrator.
This is a bodice ripper, - very overdone and annoying, cloying, and not a little racist. You have the saint/Mammy character who can do no wrong, you have the Evil One and his drunken cohort, damaged by his tutor and becomes All Bad; you have the protagonist unaccountably ending up a Victim, you have the other narrator, the quintessential strong-willed but beautiful-hearted Slave, you have the good white man next door, etc, etc. The characters have no nuance, they are so heavily drawn, and separated into goodies and baddies. Historical novels are my favorite reading at this point, but not this book. This is not good writing, save yourself the time, for something wonderful!
I just finished it and I am listening for the second time already.
I enjoyed the way the author took care to develop each character slowly. I enjoyed watching them grow up.
It' s difficult to choose just one. They were all so vivid and descriptive.
The name if perfect!
Beautifully written! I am trying to find another one her books.
I prefer the audio version, as the characters speak, you can feel the pain and anguish they feel, and the joy also. This was such an awful time in american history, but the strength and perserverence these characters show is a tribute to the human spirit. This was an excellent audiobook, and I listen to a lot of them. I recommend it 100%.
I liked Belle, she was spunky, but also fragile. She was a fighter, and had her heart broken more than once. Lavinia was great, but I didn't like how weak she was in her marriage.
I can't pick just one!
Yes, and I would love to see another one, continuing on in their lives.
"The Kitchen House" is a story that makes you laugh and weep for its amazing characters. Kathleen Grissom has created a story that tugs at your heartstrings. Amazing...
Very good performance. The main character Lavinia is a young, orphaned Irish girl who becomes an indentured white servant on a slave plantation. The layers of society and class around her are difficult for her to grasp. She loves without the boundaries demanded by the existing social and moral codes. Failing to understand, much less follow, those codes is her undoing, or perhaps her undoing is inevitable. Decent story, but at times the main character's failure to grasp reality is grating. I liked Lavinia more at the start than at the end, but maybe her character was intended to be an empty vessel to convey you on a frustrating voyage to understand the depravity engendered when one person owns another.
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