Review: The Mouse-Proof Kitchen by Saira Shah



Title: The Mouse-Proof Kitchen

Author: Saira Shah

Published: Atria July 2013

Status: Read from June 01 to July 02, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

In Saira Shah’s debut novel, The Mouse-Proof Kitchen, Anna and Tobias’s plans – to leave London for an idyllic cottage in Provence where Anna can raise Freya while working part time as a chef and Tobias can chase lucrative work as a film music composer – are thrown into disarray when their daughter is born. Unexpectedly, the doctors have told them that Freya has brain malformations that indicate she will have severe cognitive and physical disabilities and neither Anna nor Tobias feel they will be able to cope with her needs. Tobias suggests abandoning their newborn in the hospital but Anna, despite her very real concern about her ability to love and care for their daughter, is persuaded to take Freya home ‘for a while’. Reluctant to concede the death of their dreams, Anna and Tobias move to a partly derelict farmhouse in a remote region of France where they are faced with a kitchen infested by rodents, and a daughter they must learn to love.

The Mouse-Proof Kitchen is a moving yet darkly subversive story inspired by, but not based upon, the author’s own life experience. It is an exaggeration of emotion, domestic drama and dysfunction in the face of adversity, exploring the disruption of the ‘best laid schemes of mice and men’.

While Tobias buries himself in work, Anna tries desperately to re-gather the shards of her broken dreams but her reality is a kitchen infested by rodents, an unhelpful husband and the relentless needs of her daughter. Over the course of a year, as they struggle to accept their new circumstances, they battle with resentment, tiredness and guilt.
Despite their glaring faults as parents, Anna and Tobias do provoke sympathy. They are both terrified to love Freya and become attached to a child whose life expectancy is limited and whose needs are unending.

Respite from the emotional maelstrom comes from a supporting cast of quirky characters that make their way to Les Rajons including teenage hippy Lizzy, the angelic Kerim and Anna’s visiting mother as well as neighbors Julien and Ludovic. Each character challenges Anna in particular to reexamine her notions about motherhood, family, marriage and in their own unique way, help Anna and Tobias on their journey to acceptance.

Confronting, funny and touching, The Mouse-Proof Kitchen is a remarkable novel about the reshaping of dreams and unconditional love.

Available to purchase from

Simon & SchusterUS I Amazon I BookDepository

Aust Edition



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nikki-ann
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 23:38:48

    I love the title of this book. Cover-wise, I think they both look great but I think the Australian one if my favourite.

    This certainly sounds like an interesting and thought-provoking story.

    Great review, as always 🙂



  2. Kate Loveday
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 09:06:04

    It sounds like a great read. One to make you count your blessings!



  3. Joo
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 11:21:59

    I had been wondering about this one — nice review!



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