Jennifer Ryan returns to the blog with another World War II era story using fact and fiction from a BBC produced radio show, Ministry of Food pamphlets and recipes and a group of four determined women with
The Kitchen Front
The story is told in four perspectives, those of Audrey, Nell, Lady Gwendoline and Zelda – these four couldn’t be more different – but each adds their own unique spark and spice to the tale. Audrey is a struggling widow with three boys: with the death of her husband, she’s only tried to make ends meet. Starting with a deficit, she’d married for the love of her life and his passion for art – things were never ‘easy’ but being given the family home after her mother’s death had left her reasonably placed. Until mortgages and a necessary loan from her estranged sister and her husband became the ‘boulder on her shoulders’. Lady Gwendoline for her part always felt (and was made to feel that way) less than her older sister Audrey, her mother’s favorite. First doing everything to fit in, then taking her own path and setting her sights on a title and everything that came with it – she’s in an unhappy and frequently abusive marriage to a man who is not always operating aboveboard, using his connections to ‘demonstrate’ for the Ministry of Food, as well as serving as the local ‘snob about town” – isolating herself (or being isolated) by her pretentions and the need to be ‘recognized’.
Below stairs at Lady Gwendoline’s home is the kitchen and the young, orphaned kitchen maid Nell, under the gentle and loving tutelage of the cook, Mrs. Quince. Mrs. Quince is renown for her skill in the kitchen, and in Nell she’s found a protégé, albeit one who often seems to apologize for her presence. Mrs. Quince has taught Nell everything she could, and the girl’s own talent and affinity for cooking, as well as her love of Mrs. Quince have taught her much – even the ability to stand on her own. Lastly there is Zelda, a ‘reworked’ former East-Ender, billeted in the small county and running the canteen cafeteria of a local food purveyor after the hotel in which she worked was bombed, and her ‘relationship’ went south. Now pregnant, in need of new lodgings and determined to find a Head Chef position in London, sooner rather than later.
Together the four share their stories of loss and triumphs, with a competition that requires that they only use ‘rationed’ ingredients and push the face and rebuild the reputation of the BBC wartime radio program, The Kitchen Front. The winner of this contest would become a host on the show, providing much-needed money (to Audrey), a boost in reputation (to Zelda), another star to pin to her shoulder (to Gwen) and help – in Mrs. Quince’s eyes, Nell to build her own self-esteem and confidence. Full of intriguing (if rather curious) recipes, plenty of heart, and sudden changes, griefs and plenty of emotional impact, Ryan brings us into this group of diverse and soon to be friends, making us feel a part of their lives, and wanting to know more. Wishing the best for everyone as they struggle with the hardships, emotions and even the slights that happen, intentional or not, we see growth, challenge and struggle bring each woman to the best versions of themselves when they band together to move forward and through the war,
Title: The Kitchen Front
Author: Jennifer Ryan
Genre: British, European History, Family Saga, Food / Recipes, Friendship, Historic Elements, Historic Woman's Fiction, Humor elements, Romantic Elements, Second Chance, Setting: Britain, Small Town, World War II
Published by: Ballantine Books
Published on: 23 February, 2021
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 11 Hours
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From the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir comes an unforgettable novel of a BBC-sponsored wartime cooking competition and the four women who enter for a chance to better their lives.
Two years into World War II, Britain is feeling her losses: The Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio program called The Kitchen Front is holding a cooking contest—and the grand prize is a job as the program’s first-ever female co-host. For four very different women, winning the competition would present a crucial chance to change their lives.
For a young widow, it’s a chance to pay off her husband’s debts and keep a roof over her children’s heads. For a kitchen maid, it’s a chance to leave servitude and find freedom. For a lady of the manor, it’s a chance to escape her wealthy husband’s increasingly hostile behavior. And for a trained chef, it’s a chance to challenge the men at the top of her profession.
These four women are giving the competition their all—even if that sometimes means bending the rules. But with so much at stake, will the contest that aims to bring the community together only serve to break it apart?
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.