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 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.
I LOVED the story, but it's a sad one...and I'm not sure I should be crying my eyes out at 65 mph.
The story was compelling and the narration lively. I loved listening to The Kitchen House and carried my Ipod around with me everywhere so I wouldn't have to stop.
Listen on dog walks, commutes and around the house. Welcome virtually any genre but southern fiction holds a special place in my heart.
Sometimes you just don't agree with the majority and that is definitely the case with this book which currently averages over 4 stars on Audible...and I gave it only 2 stars. Maybe this book is a victim of circumstance since I'm reading it right on the heels of Gone With the Wind or maybe it is just not as well-written as I'd hoped. If the Enquirer or Star magazines from the grocery store checkout lanes were reincarnated as a novel, this would be that novel. There was so much sensationalism and zero subtlety and this meant that preposterous plot lines hit you over the head without mercy. I couldn't wait to get to the end and didn't really care how all of those plots resolved.
Say something about yourself!
For the most part, I really enjoyed this story. Belle and Mama were my favorite characters. The bad guys were REALLY bad. Marshall was disturbing, which I think gives the story more depth. The reason I couldn't bring myself to give this book 5 stars was Lavinia. Admittedly the character was set in a time when women were fairly powerless, however her excessive passiveness made me shout out loud with annoyance several times. Just because you have no power does not mean you can't have a personality! I found her thoroughly disgusting.
If you liked The Help, listen to this. It's a great story, true to history and exciting.
I had trouble putting this book down. I use books on tape when I walk and with this book I just kept walking. I walked for 2 1/2 hrs one day just so I could keep listening. Fantastic!
I loved this book. The narrator was fantastic. I could almost envision the setting. The story line was a little tired towards the end but overall it was very well written with characters that came to life through the story.
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