The Kitchen House: Book summary and reviews of The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House

A Novel

By Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2010,
    384 pages.

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Book Summary

Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.

Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, 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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Reviews

Media Reviews

"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

"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." - Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek

"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." - Alice Randall, author of The Wind Done Gone and Rebel Yell

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Becky H
THE KITCHEN HOUSE by Kathleen Grissom
In an interesting twist on the pre-Civil War story of slavery, Grissom presents us with an Irish child orphaned on the ocean crossing and delivered into the life of an indentured servant. Because Lavinia is only 6 years old as the tale begins, she is handed over to the “house slaves” to raise by the master of the house. Belle, who ultimately becomes Lavinia’s “mother/sister,” is the master’s illegitimate daughter and receives many privileges because of this relationship. Promised her freedom by the master, Belle unhappily comes under the eye of the master’s son who is unduly influenced by the evil overseer.
Grissom has written an engrossing tale of life of “house slave, “field slave” and bullied and frightened wife. The characters are clearly written, the scenes are believable, the secrets are many. The plot will grab your interest from the first page and keep you reading to the final page. Grissom has a clear vision of plantation life, family relationships, and the fear engendered by powerlessness. The tempo of the story gains momentum as the characters reveal their lies, secrets, loves, hopes and fears as Lavinia grows from child to adult.
5 of 5 stars

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Sunny
Harshness of Slavery
I don't think anyone can read this book carefully without taking away a feeling of shame for the treatment of slaves on American plantations in the late 1700's. There is an undertone of harshness and cruelty, coupled with blind widespread acceptance of the horrid reality of beautiful and hard-working human beings who were considered to be expendable property. The author also depicts the indomitable spirit and enduring qualities of many characters, showcasing courage, kindness, and family love as being able to overpower or at least survive even the most deplorable life situations. An excellent read, but not a lighthearted one.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Sandy P
Time well spent
I like select books to review from your First Impressions section because it allows me to get out of my normal spy, espionage, double agent, political genre and move into another arena I never would have explored otherwise.

I enjoyed The Kitchen House very much and I was very surprised that I did. I felt it provided a very accurate depiction of the caste system of plantation life in the late 1700's. The captain of the plantation was completely loyal and caring of the servants who worked in his house, as well as the field hands. Belle and Lavinia were very interesting contrasts to each other but experienced alot of similarities in their lives, loves, losses of family, etc. While their lives seemed to be hit by one catastrophe after another I think that was the norm for that particular period of our history. Definitely worth investing your time.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Elizabeth
Absolutely wonderful
I absolutely loved this book...couldn't put it down.

You will fall in love with the characters and share their joy, sadness, triumphs, and defeats...you will want to be right there with the ladies in the kitchen house preparing meals and being loved by them.

The book is set during the time of plantation owners and slavery. On his boat trip back from Ireland, James Pyke brought Lavinia with him...she is a seven-year-old white child whose parents died on the boat during the return trip.

Lavinia is sent to work in the Kitchen House, and the black families learn to love her and she learns to love them as the only family she knows...her memory is gone when she arrives and remembers nothing about her parents and her childhood.

Lavinia works alongside the ladies in the Kitchen House and then learns to take care of the Mistress of house's new born baby...the Mistress begins to teach Lavinia how to read and write. Lavinia is the main character along with Belle, Mama Mae and Papa George and of course the harsh plantation owners

The book takes you through the loyalties the black families have for each other and their Master and his family. It also makes your heart ache at the truths of what really occurred on the plantations concerning the relationship between the slaves and the plantation owners.

A lot of tragedies throughout the story, a terrific account of occurrences, excellent depictions of the surroundings and people.

Through the author's wonderful descriptions, you feel you are right there...the novel is fabulously written.

If you loved The Help, you will love this book as well or you may like it even more.

ENJOY! It is wonderful.

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More Information

More Information

Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Kathleen Grissom is now happily rooted in south-side Virginia, where she and her husband live in the plantation tavern they renovated. The Kitchen House is her first novel. You can visit her website at www.kathleengrissom.com.

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