This cover is pristine. What a great entrance for this story.
You may recall Jennifer Ryan’s novel THE CHILLBURY LADIES CHOIR a few years ago. It was a huge success and now she’s back with another novel set in another small village in England.
Two years into WW2 the people of Fenley Village just outside London are exhausted by the war efforts and trying to get by with the meager food rationing that’s taken the country be storm. In hopes to help housewives come up with more recipes in this trying time, the BBC- run cooking show called THE KITCHEN FRONT is running a cooking competition. It will be done in three parts, one month apart. The winner will become the new host, or I should say, hostess, for the show. They decided the man who currently hosts should really be a woman. And, the beauty of this is that there really was a cooking show on BBC back in the day. And some of those real life people are fictionalized here in this novel.
Four women are in contention for the position. A young widow with three small children is barely holding on to the home that has been falling down around her. Her pie baking business is not enough. She needs this position. Her sister is the lady of the manor in town and decides she deserves the position since her husband is so important. The kitchen maid at the manor is quite mouselike but has been taken under the wing of the current head chef. She could be the dark horse. Then out of nowhere, well, actually, from London, comes a truly experienced and trained chef who is hoping to rise to the occasion. But she’s got a secret…
I don’t know about you but we adore the British Baking Show on tv. So this was a refreshing treat of a novel for me. A novel of women fiercely in competition for a big prize. Each deserving and competent in her own way, and each needing to escape some sort of prison.
It truly was challenging bordering on impossible to come up with healthy meals with the rationing during the war. Oft times meat was just not to be found. You had to be truly enterprising. It was quite enlightening, to be honest with you. The recipes are included in the book. I will warn you right now that you are not going to be tempted to try some of them. Whale meat and mushroom pie is not something I would recommend. But the wild mushroom soup sounds divine. The fruit scones and the eggless chocolate sponge cake are on my list to try. Three recipe cards arrived with my review copy and I look forward to trying them out.
Jennifer Ryan gives these characters just enough challenge to make you root for them. Some characters were very likable from the get-go. Others not as much. But by the end of this delightful story the woman all came together, as women truly should, and you will love the end! We especially need upbeat stories like this after the year we’ve muddled through.
THE KITCHEN FRONT is such a soothing read. I read it a few months ago while we were still not doing a lot outside of the house. I needed an uplifting read, something I could recommend to others like myself. Not too light, not too heavy, just right!
Jennifer Ryan was born in Kent, The United Kingdom She grew up listening to her grandmother tell hilarious stories about WW2.
My gorgeous finished hard cover edition of THE KITCHEN FRONT arrived for review by Ballantine Books. I loved it.