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 loved this book. Excellent story, and readers are top notch! Each time I think I've loved a book so much that I might not ever like one as much again, I find one that is even better - this is that book.
Great character development
Both, sad and funny and sometimes both simultaneously.
A wonderful listen, I never wanted the story to end.
Narration truly beautiful. A heartbreaking tale of life in the south before the civil war. Perhaps not sad enough, but I still had trouble finishing it.
This could have been such a good book. Well drawn historic fiction, interesting characters and above average audio presentation. Too bad it never rises above a run of the mill soap opera. By the mid point you can predict the conclusion. Keep hoping you are wrong but it just below average Jackie Collins set in the slave quarters.
I have recommended it to friends: any book that I tear through in three days gets recommended.
The character development. Grissom has an enormous cast of characters, and each one is distinct and memorable: not an easy feat to pull off.
Although the chance of an Irish child retaining her accent seems slim to nil (she'd have acquired the same accent as slaves who raised her, in reality), Cassidy's soft Irish accent did give Lavinia a distinct characteristic. She brought through Lavinia's hesitant, hidden personality. Turpin's Belle always sounds cheerful and faintly amused, even when awful things are happening to her, which isn't quite right all the time; but Belle is by far the stronger character so it mostly works.
Uncle Jacob: I want to know his backstory.
The first half of the book is significantly stronger than the second half. The conclusion is not as satisfying as I had hoped, but for a first novel, it's a good effort. I look forward to her subsequent works, as her writing becomes more polished.
This was a great book with great characters and story lines. The switching back and forth between the two characters worked out well. That was a new approach for me but I enjoyed it.
It was wonderful being taken to a southern plantation in the early 1800's and it's day to day activities by this story teller. I felt as though I was living right there in the middle of this time period. Since the story comes from more than one point of view it was even more interesting. The voices were lovely and contributed to the whole feeling and time period. The accents and the expression in their voices were fantastic.
A little over dramatic in areas, but a well written story. The characters are vivid and well described. As you have probably already read that this story was about a about a white Irish orphan girl who grows up on a plantation in the time of slavery. It's about love, hate, death and family. The ending was a bit rushed and maybe a sequel would be in order. Overall, a very good book and well worth the credit and the time. The narrations was very superbly performed.
I found the story line in this novel to be compelling and realistic from my understanding of the period involved. The performance was excellent and the characters for the most part believable.
It begins and ends at the same spot, and the difference in your own emotions at these two points is dramatic.
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