Pamela Huxtable's Reviews > The Kitchen House

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
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Jan 14, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, awesome-members-book-club
Recommended to Pamela by: Awesome members book club
Read from January 13 to 14, 2012

If books can be compared to movies, this is a Lifetime movie. Tragedy after tragedy occurs; we have unaknowledged illegitimate biracial children, sexual abuse of children,rape, sexual assault, drug use. And the author also puts in the particular tragedies of pre-Civil War Virginia, including abuse and murder of slaves, mistreatment of slaves, the breaking of families by slave owners, starvation and overworking of the slaves. Plus mental illness. Oh, there's incest, too. And did I mention spousal abuse?

And all of this is with the peculiar feel of a Lifetime movie. The colors are too bright, scenes are just a bit too melodramatic, and the accents are just a bit off and you feel very uncomfortable about watching - or reading. Men are kind and good or they are absolute evil bastards. The black women are warm and accepting, the white women don't know what to do and retreat when confronted with difficulties.

There is minimal description of the settings or characters, but an awful lot of information dumping on the reader, in a not very interesting way. 10 lbs. worth of plot in a 5 lb bag.
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03/05 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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Carol If you would read about this period in history you would find that all of these things did indeed happen. There were many black/white children of slaves that were fathered by white owners, there was lots of starvation and overworking of slaves, there was much abuse and murder of slaves and indentured servants, much mistreatment of slaves. Why is this such a surprise to you?


Pamela Huxtable Thank you for your comment, Carol. Indeed I have read about this period in history, both non fiction and historical fiction, and none of the events of The Kitchen House in themselves were a surprise.

What I found difficult about the novel was that there were so many tragic events heaped one on top of the other without any breathing space for the reader or even the characters. Without opportunity for reflection on the part of the reader, the impact of each following tragedy became less and less. By the time the novel climaxed, I was expecting the worst, which did happen. And I was sadly unaffected.

I wish it had been different for me. I am glad you enjoyed The Kitchen House. I was reading about the author and I see that she will be writing a sequel.


Carol Thanks for your response. I understand your feelings about this now. I originally thought you meant that it really didn't happen, but now realize that it was upsetting that it was so condensed into one novel without relief and agree that it was overwhelming at times, as it was to me. I hope we enjoy her sequel.


message 4: by Kathy (new) - added it

Kathy that bad, Pam?? Yikes:)


Pamela Huxtable I would not waste your time. There are so many wonderful books out there to read.


Traci Perfect comparison with your Lifetime movie analogy!


Stephanie You indeed many of us know those things did happen, but not in the stereotyped way the author wrote about them...These were characatures of people belonging to Walt Disney's Song of The South...


Megan Kinyon I am so glad to read other people felt about this as I did. I could hardly stand to read it after learning that another huge misunderstanding that could have easily been solved if characters that were close would just talk to each other was going to ruin another person's life. I had to skim to the end.


Ellen I thought this book had a lot of emotion, but it wasn't over the top. It did not turn into chick lit. She does not marry the nice farmer at the end - that would be chick lit. I think that it all that could have happened in real life. She could have tempered some of the tragic events with more happy events, but maybe that was the truth of Lavinia's life and times. I did not understand the Captain's wife's mental condition. How could someone live so out of it for so long?


message 10: by Tori (new) - rated it 1 star

Tori Thank goodness for your review, Pam. I'm reading this now with a book club and feeling EXACTLY this way -- too much melodrama! -- but after reading so many other flowing, gushing reviews I was really starting to wonder if there's something wrong with me or my interpretation. I honestly don't like the writing, either. You know the old writers' adage "show, don't tell"? There's too much telling and not enough showing. It feels contrived and manipulative.


Pamela Huxtable Tori wrote: "Thank goodness for your review, Pam. I'm reading this now with a book club and feeling EXACTLY this way -- too much melodrama! -- but after reading so many other flowing, gushing reviews I was real..."

Hey Tori - I left Angela's group read of this book because the only comments I have left in me are snarky and rude! I stick by my comment of three years ago - 10 lbs of @&$ in a 5 lb bag! I still can't believe all the gushy reviews.


message 12: by Stephanie (last edited Aug 14, 2015 08:26PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Stephanie I felt the same about this book…Like it was a cookie cutter melodrama for Lifetime Television for Women…I was the only one in the book group who really didnt like it and ended up not going back to that group because their tastes in books were so different than mine…I think this appeals to a certain type of woman who doesn't like realistic stories about people or being forced to think about too much.. issues like racism


message 13: by Jena (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jena I agree. I felt that yes, there were a lot of tragedies that occurred during this book but if you read any historical books during this time period, that was the way of life. These events really did happen and people lived in these unspeakable environments victimized by abuse day after day. I believe the people who didn't like the book are people who do not want to understand past and are only living in the present time where events like this rarely occur. I enjoyed the book.


message 14: by Lama (last edited May 14, 2016 08:11AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lama Sh a Well, I'm half through it and so far, every page unfolds another misfortune. However, this book can be looked at from different angles and it really has different themes, not only racism and discrimination. Lavinia, for example, has been always looking for a home to hold her tight. She has been always looking for a place and lap to belong to. For Marshall, however, life treated him differently. His circumstances had him undergone abuse from one of their bossy and ignorant workers in the absence of his father. What has become of him? An abusive young boy. They are both counterparts. What agonizes me the most how slaves at that time were treated. They were treated as a property of some kind. Their lives were confined and what freed them is a "piece of paper."


message 15: by Lama (last edited May 14, 2016 08:12AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lama Sh a It agonized me when they were also labeled as just Negroes. This tells as if they do not have lives other than being born to serve and obey their bosses. What this writer really shows, through Lavinia's voice, that there is other side of their lives which evolves around love and coherence towards each other.


message 16: by Cathy (new) - added it

Cathy Daniel Are you guys really this clueless? Please pick up some history books. "Melodrama"? This was real life back then!! DUH!!!


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