gaga4bks, December 5, 2012 (view all comments by gaga4bks)
This is a great, uncomplicated, and exciting read! The chapters were written in the voice of two different characters revealing different points of view for several major events throughout the book. There were many times as I read that I gasped aloud during silent reading in class which startled the students. Then, of course, I was forced to read a short excerpt to them, but cut it short so not to reveal too much info. As it turns out, there were two students who begged to borrow my book when I finished. Yay! Can't wait to read a sequel or continue a series!
Wendy C Feltham, April 2, 2012 (view all comments by Wendy C Feltham)
The Kitchen House tells the story of Lavinia, a little orphaned Irish girl who becomes an indentured servant on a plantation in the late 1700s, the slaves who raise her and become her family, and the plantation owners. Lavinia's life changes when she grows up. The author explains in her postscript that she spent a lot of time in museums and researching old documents in order to create this piece of historical fiction. She first told the story just through Lavinia's voice, and later added alternating chapters by Belle, the slave in the plantation's kitchen house who is closest to Lavinia. I liked their contrasting perspectives and the depth of their relationship. Although I have read many books about the days of slavery, this story brings out even more shocking and horrible details, and since the characters are well developed, their anguish and the limitations of their lives seem very real. I really cared about many of the characters, and some of the complex relationships among the different characters were new to me. I was fascinated and horrified by the bizarre methods used by doctors to treat patients with illnesses, both physical and mental. Yet overall, I felt that the plot was too predictable and the "grand finale" too orchestrated.
If it was possible to give this book 6 stars I would. Right from the beginning these characters pulled me into their lives. The story telling that went on between Belle and Lavinia made me feel like I was living their tragedies with them. I remember learning about slavery in school but reading this book made me really think about what it meant to be a slave.
Slavery; American South; Plantation; Tobacco; Slaves; Irish; Ireland; Indentured Servitude; Lavinia; Belle; Mixed Race; Children of Slave Owners; Illegitimate; Servant; Master; Opium; White Slaves; Black Slaves; Pre-Civil War Era;
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Grissom's unsentimental debut twists the conventions of the antebellum novel just enough to give readers an involving new perspective on what would otherwise be fairly stock material. Lavinia, an orphaned seven-year-old white indentured servant, arrives in 1791 to work in the kitchen house at Tall Oaks, a Tidewater, Va., tobacco plantation owned by Capt. James Pyke. Belle, the captain's illegitimate half-white daughter who runs the kitchen house, shares narration duties, and the two distinctly different voices chronicle a troublesome 20 years: Lavinia becomes close to the slaves working the kitchen house, but she can't fully fit in because of her race. At 17, she marries Marshall, the captain's brutish son turned inept plantation master, and as Lavinia ingratiates herself into the family and the big house, racial tensions boil over into lynching, rape, arson, and murder. The plantation's social order's emphasis on violence, love, power, and corruption provides a trove of tension and grit, while the many nefarious doings will keep readers hooked to the twisted, yet hopeful, conclusion." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Robert Morgan, Bestselling author of the Oprah Book Club selection Gap Creek,
"You will be thrilled by this intimate and surprising story that connects us with an unexpected corner of our history. Kathleen Grissom gives us a new and unforgettable perspective on slavery and families and human ties in the Old South, exploring the deepest mysteries of the past that help define who we are to this day."
by Alice Randall, Author of The Wind Done Gone and Rebel Yell,
"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."
Gone with the Wind is turned inside out in this tragic, page-turning novel in which a white indentured servant girl lives and works with black slaves.
In this gripping New York Times bestseller, Kathleen Grissom brings to life a thriving plantation in Virginia in the decades before the Civil War, where a dark secret threatens to expose the best and worst in everyone tied to the estate.
Orphaned during her passage from Ireland, young, white Lavinia arrives on the steps of the kitchen house and is placed, as an indentured servant, under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate slave daughter. Lavinia learns to cook, clean, and serve food, while guided by the quiet strength and love of her new family.
In time, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, caring for the master’s opium-addicted wife and befriending his dangerous yet protective son. She attempts to straddle the worlds of the kitchen and big house, but her skin color will forever set her apart from Belle and the other slaves.
Through the unique eyes of Lavinia and Belle, Grissom’s debut novel unfolds in a heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful story of class, race, dignity, deep-buried secrets, and familial bonds.
Lavinia, a seven-year-old Irish orphan with no memory of her past, arrives on a tobacco plantation where she is put to work as an indentured servant. Placed with the slaves in the kitchen house under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her new adopted family, even though she is forever set apart from them by her white skin. As Lavinia is slowly accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles an opium addiction, she finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When Lavinia marries the master’s troubled son and takes on the role of mistress, 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..
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