Saturday, March 16, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
published 2010
audiobook - read by Orlagh Cassidy and Bahni Turpin

Synopsis from publisher -

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.

My thoughts -

Reading this book made me tense. That's actually a compliment, though it might not seem that way. I found myself waiting in the car when I got to work, not wanting to stop listening. I thought about the characters and their situations throughout the day. I felt actual anxiety about the dilemmas they found themselves in. That's how wrapped up I was in Grissom's story.

Lavinia was a fascinating narrator - clearly unreliable from the start, but so believable that I couldn't help taking her story at her word. Belle was so strong, and fearless - I was amazed by her resilience and ingenuity. Grissom did draw clear lines between who was in the right and who as in the wrong - her readers never wondered about who they should root for. But within those lines, she gave her characters subtle nuances and shades that kept them from seeming too perfectly scripted.

I found myself captivated by Grissom's unique perspective on the life of a plantation - as Lavinia grew, so did her world, and it was fascinating to learn more with her. There were several places where I was able to anticipate what would happen next, though that didn't spoil the story for me. I did think the ending perhaps a bit rushed, but it was satisfying.

The audio production of this novel was magnificent. The two narrators absolutely nailed the voices of Lavinia and Belle, and were surely a major factor in my ability to lose myself in this story.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, give this one a try - it's a page turner for sure, and I don't think you will be disappointed.

Finished - 3/14/13
Source -
MPAA rating - PG-13 for violence and adult situations
My rating - 8/10


bermudaonion said...

I have this in print but now I kind of wish I had the audio version.

Aarti said...

Heather from Raging Bibliomania sent me this one months ago and I haven't gotten around to reading it. This one and Wench both I think will be hard to get through. I feel like it would be tough on audio to hear the more graphic scenes, too. But I'm glad that you rated it pretty highly - something to look forward to!

Shirley Iverson said...

Loved this book and found the focus of the poor Irish girl a perfect reminder of the white "slaves".

Shirley Iverson said...

Loved this book and found the focus of the poor Irish girl a perfect reminder of the white "slaves".

Elizabeth said...

@Bermuda - it's a good one!

@Aarti - I actually hadn't thought of that until you said it - I didn't find any of the scenes too graphic, which is one of the things the author did very well.

@Shirley - the treatment of indentured servants is a topic I haven't seen much written about, so this was a really interesting read.