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)
If you want something utterly maudlin, something that violates the “show don’t tell” rule of character development, this is for you. I bought it because it is a crowd pleaser, and I enjoy many crowd pleasers in this category (like “The Help” or “Life of Pi” or “Water for Elephants”) but not when they are so unoriginal in style and plot. I don’t know whether or not to recommend it, because I don’t always find crowd pleasers so disappointing, but this surely didn't make the cut. To each his own.
I decided to get this book because one of the reviews said it was like the Help which I throughly enjoyed. It is nothing like the help. The first 1/4 of this book I thought was good. I did like the main characters especially Bell and I would have rather had her narrate the story then Lavinia. The story line just kept getting worse and worse. It was depressing, sad, and lacked everything good. I had an extremely hard time finishing this book and would should have shut it off, I kept thinking it has to get better but it did not. I did enjoy the authors note at the end to shed some light on way she let it get so disturbing. I had thought she went into a depression and wanted everyone to go along with her.
Boy, I really wanted to like this one....
... but can't seem to get into narratives that are written in first person. Hearing the tale told from the outside is as if I am watching a movie. Hearing the word "I" this and "I" that is so distracting that I mostly leave these books on the shelf rather than be disappointed to have wasted a credit when I cannot enjoy the story and give up, the remainder unheard. I wish some other reviewer had mentioned this, as it would have saved me a credit.
When I took off my headphones after I finished this book, I had to sit and ponder a moment as to how I felt about this book. In the end I was convinced, however that this was a great choice. It ended the way that it was supposed to.
When Orlagh and Bahni were speaking I could actually feel what they were feeling. I laughed when they laughed, and cried when they cried. I do not know if this was the due to the excellent way that Kathleen Grissom described her characters and their adventures or the way in which the readers voices captivated it.
This is a must listen for Historical Fiction lovers everywhere.
Wonderful I could not stop listening. The story was real and well written I am sad it is over and I am looking for another book by the same author.If you enjoy this book try Cane River or Red River both rich story telling at it's best!!
I listened to this from my itouch while riding on the back of our Harley. First time I tried that and it worked out great. No problem hearing and the narrator was terrific. I think there may have been more than one. This story follows two individual women; one a slave the other an indentured white girl who is raised by slaves and feels they are her true family. The story is very interesting and captivating. I enjoyed it very much and recommend it to all those who love southern history. It can be very sad but the strength of the characters and their ability to survive is truly inspirational.
This book is rich in history with characters that you fall in love with. I really didn't want this book to end, but when it did I thought about it for days. If you liked The Help you will also like this book.
I really loved the way this author wrote this book. There was enough going on to make it hard to put the book aside.
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