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The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Kathleen Grissom

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2,1841572,974 (3.99)141
Title:The Kitchen House
Authors:Kathleen Grissom
Info:New York : Touchstone Books, 2010.
Collections:Your library
Tags:historical fiction, plantation life, 19th century Virginia

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 141 mentions

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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. ( )
  lamotamant | Sep 22, 2016 |
2010, Blackstone Audiobooks, Read by Orlagh Cassidy and Bahni Turpin

In late eighteenth century Virginia, Tall Oaks, the tobacco plantation of Captain James Pyke is thriving. It is to this “home,” where seven-year-old Lavinia – white and orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland – arrives to live and work as an indentured servant, along with the slaves of the kitchen house. Captain Pike assigns Lavinia to the care of Belle, his illegitimate daughter, and the young child becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family. In time, Lavinia is accepted into the society of the big house, the home of the Captain, his wife Martha, and his children, Lucy and Marshall. But all is not well: the Captain is most often away, his wife battles a crippling opium addiction, and Marshall – traumatized by the continued and despicable behaviour of a live-in tutor – becomes a hateful and violent young man. Lavinia finds herself in the dangerous position of straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are drawn into question, perilous secrets are disclosed, and lives are put at risk.

The Kitchen House is an excellent read, exceptionally narrated by Orlagh Cassidy and Bahni Turpin. The characters of Tall Oaks, expertly brought to life by Grissom, are ones I will not forget: Mama Mae, Papa George, Belle, the Captain, Marshall, and, of course, Lavinia. The idea of home and family being shared amongst those of different colour in the era of slavery is beautifully written. But it simultaneously sets one’s teeth on edge, so to speak – surely, such a circumstance is not only dangerous, but can only lead to tragedy. And so the page-turning suspense begins. Highly recommended. ( )
2 vote lit_chick | Sep 17, 2016 |
Irish endentured servant grows up with the slaves, only to marry the cruel son of the plantation owner. Beautifully written, good story, good characters. I really enjoyed this book. ( )
  bookwormteri | Aug 22, 2016 |
A brilliant read! ( )
  jkrnomad | Jul 1, 2016 |
The storyline of The Kitchen House hinged strongly on Miss Martha's belief about Belle's relationship with Miss Martha's husband, the Captain, but to my understanding it just didn't add up. Why? If I read correctly, wasn't Belle just eight years old when Miss Martha came to Tall Oaks? Would Miss Martha assume that her husband's relationship with a light skinned slave, a child, was sexual and not paternal? Maybe so, but it felt contrived as did the unending series of deaths and disasters. Was there another tragedy looming there at the end with Will's wife? Maybe a hook for a sequel? This time I'll be smart enough to not bite. ( )
  wandaly | Jun 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 156 (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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