The Kitchen Front
Four women meet at a crossroads of opportunity in World War 2 Britain. All four are avid cooks/chefs, and all have their work cut out for them if they are going to win a place presenting on The Kitchen Front, a wartime BBC radio presentation. Two have a suffered as a result of romantic relationships, while two are struggling to keep their dignity and make the most of their talents in an increasingly women-dominated world.
The novel opens on Audrey, a wartime widow who is trying to make ends meet for her three young sons and literally keep a solid roof over her head. The author then pivots to her haughty sister, Gwendoline – and the reader suddenly feels berefit and unsatified (and perhaps even a little cheated). How dare Gwendoline make things hard for her sister? How dare she keep the young maid Nell on her toes from dawn past dusk? Yet as the novel progresses we start to see the side of each woman, and I honestly couldn’t decide who I wanted to win the competition!
Oh ouch. I could see that ending coming from a mile away! Who knew that you could make a Croquembouche under wartime limitations? I found each of the recipes included in the novel to be enjoyable, and quite illuminating for someone like me who hates/knows no history. If I knew where to get elderberries in Australia I’d be whipping up a batch of Nel’s elderflower essence in a heartbeat.
I couldn’t help myself and this was quite a compulsive read despite my initial reluctance to pick it up. I’ve been doing a lot of rereads recently for the comfort factor, and I wasn’t sure how this novel would pan out. I didn’t need to fear though! There are a couple of snigger points in the novel, and also just a feel-good vibe. I enjoyed it!
I don’t think this is a reread for me, but I have in mind the perfect person to give it to for Christmas. Anyone who enjoys cooking, ‘women’s fiction’ (I personally think the term is a little insulting; is there something called ‘men’s fiction’?) or just a lighthearted positive-ended novel is going to enjoy this feel-good novel. It could be the perfect gift for Mother’s Day 2022!
Pan Macmillan | 29th December 2021 | AU$32.99 | paperback