Review: The Kitchen House

Editorial Review - - Christine M

Author Kathleen Grissom brings us a gripping tale of the South during the days of slavery. The story is told from two different perspectives: Belle, the mulatto daughter of plantation owner Captain Pyke, and Lavinia, a white girl from Ireland who is sent to work in the “kitchen house” with Belle and other “nigras.” Belle, whose mother was a slave, was born on the plantation. Lavinia is an ... Read full review

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User Review  - Carlathelibrarian -

Kathleen Grissom's debut novel about slavery in the South in the late 1700's, early 1800's is a thought-provoking look at life on a tobacco plantation in that both shocks and saddens us. We meet the ... Read full review

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User Review  - TheQuietReader -

Orphaned Lavinia is raised and loved by the slaves of her indentured master. Belle is the illegitimate daughter of the master. Their lives remain intertwined as they both make sense of the world they ... Read full review

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User Review  - crazy4reading -

I enjoyed the characters in this book. I found myself feeling sorry for Lavinia from the beginning. She is an orphaned at a young age and is placed with a family as a servant girl. She doesn't learn ... Read full review

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User Review  - Cariola - LibraryThing

In the early 19th century, Lavinia, a young Irish girl who lost her family during immigration, is brought to a plantation as an indentured servant. She is taken to the kitchen house where Belle, a ... Read full review

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Very interesting story and good reading...On Kindle Feb. 16, 2011

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Tandra maddox
What a great book.

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Endearing and thoughtfully written story, easy to become attached to the characters within this story and become captivated in their day to day struggles & celebrations.

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As I read this book I was reminded of the Victorian novels I read as a young girl, in which the heroine always faced the most awful circumstances but was rescued by a hero at various turns in her life, each one with a secret that tormented him or her and caused the story to twist and turn until it resolved itself in some way, at the end, with consequences that could not be avoided or altered.
This book is a saga well worth the read. The well developed characters are gentler and wiser than those far more educated and worldly, and they will endear themselves to you. Those that do not are typical of the cruel monsters we often encounter in life and ascribe their tormented souls to their environment or their experience, but whatever the reason, they are the dregs of the universe.
The opening horror-filled scene is quickly moved into the background as the story begins on a beautiful plantation in the 1700's, a time when slavery was accepted and people were property.
A young child, Lavinia, is brought home to a plantation by the master of the property, the Captain, and she is placed in the Kitchen House to work alongside the slaves, although she is Caucasian. Her brother has been sold, her parents are dead, and she is alone in the world.
Blacks who are enslaved and without free papers are doomed to a life of unbearable bondage, poor housing, insufficient food, overwork and constant fear of being beaten, used or sold and separated from those they loved. In spite of their hardships, they forge a community and care for each other, taking pleasure in life’s simple joys. They embrace Lavinia, regardless of her color, and nurse her back to health.
This is Lavinia's story. She grows up "colorblind" and is not aware of her different station in life or of the fact that she will be free some day, and she loves her home and her family, Mama Mae, Papa George, Uncle Jacob, Belle, the twins, and all the family that surrounds her. She wants to remain with them forever. Her days are work filled and pleasant, once she grows used to her surroundings and responsibilities. She thrives and is actually happy, working and enjoying the friendship of other children her age. As young as she is, she cares for those younger and learns to love.
This is the story of her plight, which although in sharp contrast with the plight of slaves, is almost as dreadful. even though only for a finite term, of which she is unaware. They are all owned. It is the story of her innocence, her ignorance and na´vetÚ which leads to dramatic events, some happy and some tragic.
The secrets and mysteries of life on the plantation move the tale in numerous twists and turns. Knowing the truth would have made circumstances turn out in a happier fashion, but these were times when many things were not discussed openly, and women had limited power and freedom. Women belonged to their husbands as much as slaves belonged to their masters, albeit they lived in better circumstances.
The author has done a commendable job capturing the idea of what it meant to be a "slave" and a "master" from both perspectives, as well as how enslaved a wife was, even though she was "free". The author has captured the mood of the times, the hardships, total helplessness and hopelessness and the need for utter obedience and humility in order to survive the most distasteful circumstances and in order to put up with the most cruel and despicable people. The lives of slaves were incidental, unimportant to the masters, simply property. There was no justice, no recourse and utterly no regard for their needs or their humanity. They were unable to fight back and had to witness and bear the most awful punishments and deprivations, sometimes just at the whim of the master.
Through Lavinia's eyes, we experience the life of a slave and a free woman in the same body. The lesson we learn from Lavinia is that one's color does not make a difference. Like "The Boy In The Striped Pajamas

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User Review  - nu-bibliophile -

It was a little too wordy but still worthy to be read. The ending was bittersweet yet complete. Read full review

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