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The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Kathleen Grissom

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,9501403,493 (3.98)132
Title:The Kitchen House
Authors:Kathleen Grissom
Info:Touchstone (2010), Edition: 1ST, Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (2010)

  1. 50
    The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Blogletter)
    Blogletter: Zowel Het Keukenhuis door Kathleen Grissom als Een keukenmeidenroman door Kathryn Stocket gaan over slavernij in Amerika.
  2. 30
    Someone Knows My Name: A Novel by Lawrence Hill (Anonymous user, vancouverdeb)
    Anonymous user: Both The Kitchen House and the Book of Negroes are about Black Slavery in the South. They are different, but provide an eye opening look at Black Slavery.
  3. 10
    Oonagh by Mary Tilberg (Iudita)
    Iudita: Historical fiction about indentured servants.
  4. 00
    Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball (dara85)
  5. 11
    The Color Purple by Alice Walker (varwenea)
  6. 00
    Cane River by Lalita Tademy (dara85)
  7. 00
    Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim (susiesharp)
    susiesharp: this is also a tale of the south and slavery but this one is not as depressing as The Kitchen House but has a similar feel.
  8. 01
    Year the Colored Sisters Came to Town by Jacqueline Guidry (varwenea)
  9. 01
    The Ways of White Folks: Stories by Langston Hughes (varwenea)
  10. 01
    Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (varwenea)
  11. 01
    The Long Song by Andrea Levy (vancouverdeb)
    vancouverdeb: Similar themes: black slaves, a young woman who works within the "White Master's" Plantation house.Slavery,Freedom from slavery; both wonderfully written. Divided loyalities, a fiesty female slave.

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» See also 132 mentions

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Pre-Civil War Virginia tobacco plantation melodrama... ( )
  Cricket856 | Jan 25, 2016 |
3.5 stars
There was lots to like in this story about an orphaned Irish indentured servant girl growing up amongst the slaves of a tobacco plantation in Virginia in the late 1700s. There was also a lot I didn't like and I've been debating back and forth whilst reading whether to round my rating down to a 3 or up to a 4.

*This may contain some spoilers*

6 year old Lavinia arrives at Tall Oaks in 1791, having lost her family during the crossing from Ireland to America. She is sent to work in the estate's kitchen house, where she is raised by Belle, the master's illegitimate slave daughter. Lavinia grows up caught between the black world and the white, the kitchen house and the big house. Following the master's death she is taken in by relatives of her mistress, who by now is mad, and educated with their own daughter. She eventually returns as the mistress of the big house when she marries her former master's son.

I very much enjoyed the parts describing Lavinia's childhood, her life in the kitchen house and her growing familial bond with Belle and the other inhabitants of the slave quarters. However, Lavinia as an adult was incredibly naive, almost as if none of her life experiences had made any impression on her. Many of her choices were just baffling, and her understanding of the social order on a plantation seemed to be non-existent, almost as if she'd just arrived from Ireland rather than spending her childhood there. I also found it strange that the heir to an estate would chose to marry an indentured servant. One of the main secrets, and cause for conflict, of the story, Belle's parentage, I found difficult to accept - how could nobody at the big house know whose daughter she was, especially since she'd lived there as a child?

Some characters were complex and beautifully drawn, but others were fairly stereotypical, and that was becoming more of a problem as the story went on. For the most part, the narrative held my attention, but again there was too much melodrama and stereotypes to make it feel real to me. I suppose I could say I liked it, but didn't love it. ( )
  SabinaE | Jan 23, 2016 |
I couldn't put this away! I normally prefer reading to listening to books, I appreciated this audiobook with the different voices that made the story more real. The storyline is "hard" with no fairytale ending but it is believable. And compelling in its sad truth of the era. ( )
  becka11y2 | Jan 19, 2016 |
My take: 3 looks


Nice historical fiction book. Spanning about 15 years, this tells the story from two perspectives: Lavinia, a white orphan from Ireland and Belle, a black slave who is also the white master's illegitimate daughter.

Even though it's told from two perspectives, it is Lavinia who dominates the dialogue. I found this very interesting. Lavinia would get 8 pages to Belle's 2 pages. Toward the end, it seemed to even out more, but only perhaps Belle's story was increasing a bit.

I would have like to hear from another perspective, one from the "big house". Perhaps Marshall, the abused and damaged son of the plantation owner. His perspective would have been intriguing and would have shed much-needed light on the reasons for his actions. Otherwise, the reader has to assume that he is simply a deranged and mean person.

Lavinia, as a white girl in the servant's quarters, was a bit predictable in her actions and attitudes. She didn't understand why she was able to sit in the front of the church, as opposed to standing in the back like her "family" did. She didn't understand that, when she returns as the mistress, she is treated differently by her "family".

I think the most complex characters would be Mama Mae and Marshall. However, I think Martha also had a story to tell. I would have liked to hear from them, as opposed to those chosen. It was an easy read, though, and I recommend it. ( )
  CarmenMilligan | Jan 18, 2016 |
I'm pretty iffy on plantation stories. Often they end up seeming trite and disrespectful, focused more on melodrama than on actual history. So if an author doesn't have an actual connection to their material it's probably going to be a bust for me. Especially if the book is historical fiction because I'm going to expect a good emphasis on the historical part of that genre.

However, Grissom has a good opening: a young Irish girl winds up the indentured servant of a very screwed up household but she finds a family in those that work the kitchen and 'big house.' Through her eyes, and the eyes of Belle - kin to the 'Captain' but forced to work in the kitchen for his wife and white children - we see a lot of the prevalent issues of the age such as relationships, the massive strength of character some people can have under inhumane conditions that would break most, denial of paternity, secrecy, idiotic medical practices that killed more people than they helped, a quick peek into the despair of a mental health hospital and the ability of a husband to toss his wife in one should he choose, rape and the resulting trauma, etc. Surely there is a lot of merit behind a book (and an author) that encompasses all of this. I'm not going to say that there isn't, no worries. What I will say is that, as a first book, I feel like more was bitten off than should have been. There are times of very frustrating shallowness in the depiction of characters that could have flown off the page larger than life given the right dose of prose and ink. Rather, the subsisting element of the book is crisis after crisis.

This element makes the crises run together rather than allowing her characters to grow as they face a specific thing. So the depth of the characters becomes implied rather than really explored by the author. It's a rather tepid complaint. I kept reading and I wouldn't say that this book wasn't worth the read. It encompasses historical realities that should be remembered and respected. I just wanted to see more than I did of certain characters, to see them fleshed out more... I guess 'consistently' would be the word. ( )
  lemotamant898 | Jan 18, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 140 (next | show all)
Though there are several compelling insights in The Kitchen House, it’s nevertheless a formulaic story. There are graphic shocks, but no surprises.
added by lkernagh | editQuill & Quire, Sara Forsyth (Mar 1, 2010)
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For my beloved parents, Ted and Catherine Doepker, and for my dear mentor, Eleanor Drewry Dolan
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There was a strong smell of smoke, and new fear fueled me.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
After seven-year-old Lavinia is orphaned on the journey from Ireland to the United States, she begins work in the kitchen house of a tobacco plantation and bonds with the slaves who become her adopted family, but when Lavinia is accepted into the big house, her loyalties are challenged.
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"In 1790, 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 with the kitchen house slaves. Though she becomes deeply bonded to her new family, Lavinia is also slowly accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. As time passes she finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds and when loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare and lives are at risk. "--Publisher's description.… (more)

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