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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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VINE VOICEon 20 November 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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VINE VOICEon 26 March 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( 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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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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on 15 April 2015
Set between the years of 1791 and 1810 The Kitchen House tells the story of Lavinia, a young white orphan who is intentured to a wealthy landowner in Virginia. It's the story of 'what ifs'. What if her parents hadn't died on the passage from Ireland to America. What if she and her brother Cardigan hadn't been separated. What if she'd known the truth... This novel weaves layers and layers of secrets, some which Lavinia is too young to understand and and some which she makes up her own truth for. This, ultimately, is her downfall.

Lavinia is but one of a large cast of characters in this novel. She is naive, but likable, however not my favourite. Out of all of them Mama Mae is my favourite character. 'I work for Mrs. Pyke like I don't know what tired mean. Nothing' that I won't do. "Yes, Mrs. Pyke, you right, Mrs. Pyke," that all I say. You girls watch me close. I act like I don't have no mind of my own, except how to make every body in the big house happy. That because I mean to stay up there, and I tryin' hard to keep you girls with me.'

I found this to be a real page-turner; I really couldn't wait to see how the story would unfold. It was exciting up until the very end.
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on 8 December 2013
A very good read- a kind of poor man's Gone with the wind.
Masses of detail and some interesting facts and then a very abrupt ending which left me feeling as if the writer had run out of paper! Or time!
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on 13 September 2014
This book had me from the first paragraph, such depth, emotion and prose all mingled together to give you a book nothing short of brilliant. you'll sit up long into the night whilst at the same time not wanting it to end. enjoy and then tell your friends about it.
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on 25 January 2012
39. The Kitchen House - Kathleen Grissom - The story revolves around slavery in the States and indentured workers. The cruelty endured and the love of the slaves for some of their masters - so prepared to accept so little. As a 7 year old, Lavinia is orphaned on board ship sailing to the States from IReland with her family to find a better life. As an Irish person of no status she is taken as a slave and given to the slaves in the kitchen house to look after. Bella [the plantation owners illegitimate daughter by a previous slave], takes Lavinia under her wing. This is Lavinia's story as well as Bella's who has to watch her half siblings being treated like royalty while she endures harsh treatment when her father dies. Moving, extremely sad and hopeless at time, somehow Grissom does find a way to end with hope but what a life.
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on 8 March 2014
I really loved the characters in this book and cared about what happened to them, however, I was less sure about some of the twists in the story. Although I'm sure all the events detailed here really happened, I felt the plot revelled in the sensational. This made it rather melodramatic when compared to someone like Andrea Levy. It is still a good read and will appeal to those who enjoy reading about strength and friendship.
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on 20 February 2015
I enjoyed this book, it is a good story but quite predictable. There are no surprises to the plot that might make you think. Towards the end it feels rushed and not as well developed as the beginning. Saying that, the beginning is told from a young child's view point so is quite scant on description and explanation, much of the detail is left to the imagination or to be understood later just as a child might. Not a bad read but not a great one either.
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