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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, powerful and emotional
Set in the 1700′s, The Kitchen House tells the story of Lavinia, a young Irish orphan girl who is transported to Virginia and finds herself working as a servant in the kitchens of a wealthy plantation owner, amongst the slaves that work there already.

The story is told in the narrative of Lavinia, and also from Belle's viewpoint, a member of the kitchen...
Published on 14 Mar. 2013 by Megan ReadingInTheSunshine

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So much promise but left wanting more
The book is about slavery - a white Irish girl set to work within a group of black slaves, working on a plantation in the Deep South USA.

The story is told by two girls; Lavinia, white irish and Belle, mixed race child of the master of the plantation. Each tells the story in alternate chapters, I really like this style of book and was able to understand more...
Published 20 months ago by S. A. Broadhurst


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, powerful and emotional, 14 Mar. 2013
By 
Megan ReadingInTheSunshine (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Kitchen House (Hardcover)
Set in the 1700′s, The Kitchen House tells the story of Lavinia, a young Irish orphan girl who is transported to Virginia and finds herself working as a servant in the kitchens of a wealthy plantation owner, amongst the slaves that work there already.

The story is told in the narrative of Lavinia, and also from Belle's viewpoint, a member of the kitchen family. We follow Lavinia as she adjusts to life as a servant, forms bonds with the other slaves she works with and grows up with the prospect of a better life and future as a white woman. This is a huge contrast to the life of Belle, as her fortunes move in a very different way.

Wow. This is not an easy read at times, as in the story Belle enlightens the reader to the harsh reality of what life was like for a slave in that time period - such as being subjected to horrific things such as rape and violence, as well as the constraints of society. But it is a very powerful book, both tragic and moving.

The characters are very well-drawn, the kitchen family and Lavinia in particular come to life in this story. As a reader I was drawn to them and I felt for them whilst reading about their daily lives and the hardships that they went through.

I liked that The Kitchen House had underlying topics such as the importance of family, what it means to be a family, and love. The kitchen family took Lavinia in when she arrived traumatized at the plantation, they taught her and she grew to think of them as her family.

The Kitchen House is a compelling and powerful book, but is very emotional too. There are some desperately sad moments that will break your heart, and moments that will have you rooting for the kitchen family and Lavina. I have never read anything like The Kitchen House before, but I was gripped, I cared very much for the kitchen family and I always wanted to read on. I would thoroughly recommend this.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So much promise but left wanting more, 20 Nov. 2013
By 
S. A. Broadhurst "SBroadhurst" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Kitchen House (Hardcover)
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The book is about slavery - a white Irish girl set to work within a group of black slaves, working on a plantation in the Deep South USA.

The story is told by two girls; Lavinia, white irish and Belle, mixed race child of the master of the plantation. Each tells the story in alternate chapters, I really like this style of book and was able to understand more about the issues caused by the slavery. I also believe that the author undertook a large amount of research before starting this book, which shows through clearly throughout the book. This is another book which could be used by history students learning about this historical time.
I really did enjoy the book and was one which I couldn't put down but at the end I felt something was missing, the story felt unfinished in some way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very enjoyable story, 26 Mar. 2014
By 
H. Ashford "hashford" (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kitchen House (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the story of Lavinia ("Abinia") a young white Irish girl arriving in Virginia towards the end of the 18th century. Lavinia's story begins with tradegy; her parents have died on the crossing and to cover their debts she is indentured as a servant to the wealthy shipping line owner. On arrival she is sent to the kitchen house where she works and lives alongside the black slaves and comes to regard them as her family.

As a small child she sees no important differences between herself and her black "family". As she matures towards adulthood, however, it becomes clear that her future must take her along different paths from theirs. Increasingly alone and without anyone to advise her, Lavinia makes a number of poor decisions that eventually end in tragedy.

Firstly I want to say that I was enthralled by this book. I was reluctant to put it down and thought about the characters during the day when I was away from it. To me this is what I (personally) need to rate a book as good - and for this reason I have given it 5*s. I think for a first novel, this is a fantastic achievement from Grissom. The writing is confident, the book is well constructed, the story flows well, the characters are believable - you can almost feel as if you are there.

On the down side, the plot is rather predictable, and there is a horrible inevitability to the bad decisions Lavinia makes that lead inexorably to the destruction of a lot of what she holds dear. At times I had to suspend credibility (and supress irritation) as yet again she determinedly closed her eyes to reality, and I found it hard to accept that not a single white person among all the people that she meets in Williamsburg is able or willing to look at her situation clearly and give her sensible and impartial advice.

Will this appeal to fans of The Help? Yes I think so, though it is a very different book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surely a Classic, 2 Feb. 2014
By 
Thomas Pots "T Pots" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kitchen House (Hardcover)
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It is 1790. A white Irish girl, Lavinia, finds herself living among black slaves in Virginia. Thus begins a story of hardship and misery heaped upon the girl, lifted in turns by the comfort of affection and care. It could have been a pot-boiler in the wrong hands, but Grissom handles the plot with tremendous skill, and she delivers a wonderfully powerful novel.

The gruesome treatment meted out to slaves, from beatings to rape and murder, are tough to read, though it is well-known that such things were commonplace at the time. Yet these are thankfully the darkest portions; much of the story examines the daily lives of the characters – all of them well-drawn and with a trueness about them that pulls you into their world. It’s an unusual book, to be sure, but one that is a cinch to recommend. In terms of story-telling power, it is streets ahead of most of what’s out there today. I've never understood what makes a novel a "classic", but this one surely qualifies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars HIGHS & LOWS, 12 April 2013
By 
Mr. D. L. Rees "LEE DAVID" (DORSET) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kitchen House (Hardcover)
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1791. Orphaned on the ship crossing from Ireland to America, little Lavinia is taken under the wing of James Pyke, owner of Tall Oaks plantation in South Virginia. No way, though, can she live in the big house - she instead to dwell with the servants, only white amongst coloureds. Bewildered, she forever tries to adapt. Increasingly she becomes aware of what slaves have to endure when certain whites take advantage - sexually abused, tortured, even killed if considered "uppity". If put to the test, as most assuredly one day must happen, where will her loyalties lie...?

The novel's first section is excellent - atmospheric, involving, the sense of injustice palpable and disturbing. Sadly everything then sags with a change of location and a host of new characters. The eventual return to Tall Oaks, in greatly altered circumstances, also fails to recapture earlier strengths - events there spread over too many years.

What scope for discussion in book groups! Does the "I" approach work? (Narration alternates between Lavinia and slave Belle.) Is it only with the servants the novel really comes alive, the whites (good and bad) largely stereotypes? Would the third section have far greater impact with events compressed into just a few months? The end, when it comes, is certainly dramatic but does it convince?

I own to reservations increasing as the novel progressed, but throughout was absorbed enough to care about the outcome.

Stars? Five for the first section, three for the others. Overall four.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read, 26 Jan. 2013
By 
Welsh Annie (Wetherby) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kitchen House (Hardcover)
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Starting at the close of the 18th century, this book tells the story of Lavinia, a young Irish orphan, who is taken in by a plantation owning family and grows up with the family of black slaves who work in the house, kitchen and plantation. The reader follows her as she grows to adulthood and her fortunes change, and it's a roller coaster of a story. Her story alternates with that of Belle, one of the slave family, whose fortunes move in a very different direction. In the hands of a lesser author, this could have made it a fairly dry tale of how the colour of your skin can define you - but this book is really something rather special, with a strong emphasis on love and hope, but never pulling any punches on the cruelty dealt out to the slaves by their owner families. Both Lavinia ("Abinia" to her slave family) and Belle are wonderfully drawn female characters, and the surrounding cast is equally well rounded. This is never an easy read, but I found it totally compelling. Other reviewers have drawn comparisons with The Help, but the shock value there was its relatively modern setting: this one deals with a period of history that's been more frequently addressed, but rarely with more impact, and the "poor white" perspective is a fresh and new one. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing debut novel, 24 Mar. 2013
By 
s "s" (north west) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kitchen House (Hardcover)
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The story begins in 1791 when 7year old Lavinia is transported to work in the kitchen of a wealthy plantation owner.Although she is white,she becomes part of the family of black slaves.As she gets older and her skin sets her apart,she must live the life of a white woman.The black slaves are Lavinias' family and she struggles in a life that she feels she can't and doesn't fit into.This was both a marvellous and touching story that keeps you interested throughout.It's easy to read with great clarity and all the characters are well rounded and believable and you feel a connection with them.The book has one Chapter written by Lavinia and the following Chapter is by Belle,a mixed race slave.This narration works really well and was a pleasure to read.I'd recommend this book to anybody who enjoy the plantation/slave/saga books as this one is outstandingly good.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, 18 Nov. 2012
This review is from: The Kitchen House (Paperback)
I was deeply moved, horrified and gripped by this story. A world that is so removed from ours but existed all over- the voices are real and the story facinating. Read it and learn about a world of suffering, of selfless love and endurance.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Drama of the American South in the 1800s, 11 July 2015
By 
This review is from: The Kitchen House (Kindle Edition)
This was an interesting premise, and I enjoyed the story, particularly the slaves’ embracing of the orphaned indentured Irish girl (Lavinia, who came into their care at five years old). Here's an excerpt:

“Anyway, you can’t marry Ben. He cullad.”
“Fanny right about that,” Beattie agreed.
I began to cry. “I can marry Ben if I want to. You can’t make me be a white girl.” I tossed my wreath aside. “And you can’t make me live in the big house.”
Mama came to the door. “(Lavinia), that you cryin’? You nine years old and still cryin’ like a baby?”
“She wantin’ to marry Ben,” Fanny explained. “She not wantin’ to live in the big house, she not wantin’ to be a white girl.”

Unfortunately, the writing has a few flaws: repetition (as in the McGuffin of Belle’s freedom papers); the restated reminder over and over again that “he’s gonna sell us!”, and the narrative summaries (in place of showing us what is happening) in order to accelerate the passage of time. Here is an example of the latter that was especially aggravating: Now all grown up, Lavinia is understandably mute and passive. After all, she was virtually raised a slave. However, she is still the main character.

“...I felt more helpless than ever, and with each passing year, I burrowed deeper into oblivion...It (has been) five years that Sukey’s gone.”

A five year jump, wherein the story moves forward with the main character doing nothing!

Finally, the author committed a weird strategic (or unwitting) error toward the end, wherein Lavinia becomes less likeable, rather than more. Here are some examples of her behavior:

* Lavinia has an uncaring attitude about Belle’s emancipation papers; this could be life and death to Belle, who is dear to Lavinia, yet L acts like the papers aren't important. Ho hum. Another year or two out of Belle's life. Who cares? This did not make Lavinia a person worth rooting for.
* A scene from late in the book, where Lavinia is a grown woman: “That can’t be! You’re mistaken!” I shouted, and stomped my foot. (What is she, a 5-year-old?)
* Lavinia’s disregard toward her own child, evidenced repeatedly toward the end of the book.

Although those were negatives, the story, for the most part is well-researched and interesting, and the premise is fresh.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Début Novel, 20 Feb. 2014
By 
Amazon Customer "Angela" (Essex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kitchen House (Hardcover)
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Couldn't stop reading it. If you enjoy stories like 12 Years a Slave, Amazing Grace, Amistaad etc this is a good read. It is set during a very dark period of American history, when just because of the colour of your skin you were judged to be no more than cattle to be bought, sold or abused at will. Although this story is a work of fiction, the author has done her research.

You feel much for the characters of book, pity, anger, frustration and horror at times. This is a début novel, and I would be eager to read more of Kathleen Grissom's stories in the future, whatever she may choose to write about.

The story is mainly told through the eyes of two women, although when they first come into the story, one is a young girl, and one an orphaned child. Belle is the daughter of the Capt, the owner of the plantation, her mother a dead slave girl. Lavinia is an orphaned Irish girl, whose parents died on the passage to America, leaving her and her brother to the fate of the Capt who owned the ship. Her brother is indentured elsewhere and she is taken into the Capt's house, or rather put with the slaves to work in the kitchen.

Lavinia's new family take good care of her, but outside influences affect them all in often tragic ways, not least of which is the corrupt overseer. Life is hard for Belle as her father keeps the secret of her parentage from his wife and children, which later has terrible consequences. Instead they choose to think of her as his whore.

There are flashes of hope in that rather grim but addictive story, but my only critism is that I didn't want it to end! I felt there could have been more at the end, it did feel a tiny bit rushed. I guess the romantic in me wished for a rosier ending, but it was a satisfying one at least.

Brilliant for a début novel, this is a writer to watch.
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The Kitchen House
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
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