Review: Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook by Celia Rees

Title: Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook

Author: Celia Rees

Published: July 2020, William Morrow Paperbacks

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

++++++

My Thoughts:

With the end of WWII, London modern languages teacher Edith Graham is recruited to join the British Control Commission in Germany as the country begins to rebuild. As an Education Officer she will work to reestablish schools in Lubeck, but Edith has also been secretly tasked with passing on information to both the British Government, particularly if she is able to renew her acquaintance with ex-lover Kurt von Stavenow, and to her friend, Dori, who is searching for lost friends. It’s a risky proposition in a country beset with war criminals in hiding, conspirators, spies, and opportunists and Edith will have to learn quickly who to trust if she is to complete her mission.

Rees has created a complex and interesting plot, exploring post war activities in Germany I’ve come across only rarely. The story offers action and tension, though I did feel it was slow to start, as Edith navigates a path strewn with suspicion, prejudice, deception, and danger, knowing a misstep could place her own life could at risk. She quickly detects traitors within her own lodgings, but it is Kurt, whom the British believe led the Aktion T4, a Nazi program that resulted in the extermination of the disabled, the infirm, the mentally ill, the young and elderly alike, who they really want. More than once Edith considers giving up, but she perseveres, determined to see justice done. There are several twists in the plot, but I was particularly stunned by the final chapters.

The detail in the novel shows that the author engaged in meticulous historical research, Rees skilfully creates an authentic sense of time and place, illustrating the devastation of post war Germany and the resulting hardships for its people. It’s not only the experience of the British and German that Rees explores, there are characters who are displaced persons/refugees from countries such as Poland, Hungry, and Russia, plus serviceman and spies representing a number of nations, including America.

Edith is an appealing character, amiable and earnest but quite naive when she takes up her post. Still, she soon finds her experience working under a pseudonym in England as Stella Snelling, a cookery columnist, of benefit, devising a code using recipes and the ‘Radiation Cookery Book’ to communicate with Dori, and discovering recipe collecting helps ease her way. Foodies will appreciate that many of these recipes are included in the book.

Dori has an interesting backstory and plays a significant role in the story which becomes especially clear in the final chapters. Photojournalist Adeline, whom Edith befriended before the war, also appears regularly. There is a touch of romance for Edith with Harry Hirsch, a member of the Jewish Brigade smuggling Holocaust survivors into Mandatory Palestine. Other significant characters include Luka, an orphaned Polish boy Edith rescues from the streets, her driver Jack, who is also a soldier and a spy, and Edith’s cousin Leo, who pulls strings from the Home Office.

Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is a well crafted, absorbing and thrilling tale of post war espionage.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sue Legg
    Jul 22, 2020 @ 20:51:12

    Have just started reading this & quite enjoying getting to know the characters. I obviously have a long way to go with expected twists but at least in most definitely not struggle to gain interest.

    Like

    Reply

  2. Marg
    Jul 22, 2020 @ 21:40:38

    I’ve just started this too. I am looking forward to getting further into the story.

    Like

    Reply

  3. carhicks
    Jul 22, 2020 @ 23:06:25

    This sounds really good. This is a period of history I have not read about. Wonderful review.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  4. Aimee Brown
    Jul 23, 2020 @ 01:24:40

    I love historical fiction! This sounds like an interesting mash up with the recipes and cooking.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  5. denisenewton1960
    Jul 23, 2020 @ 06:47:21

    I enjoyed this one too, with its twists. A different take on the WWII novel and like you I thought the insight into post war Germany intriguing.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  6. yvonne473
    Jul 23, 2020 @ 09:31:00

    I definitely have to add this to my list. I love the era that it’s set in and your review is so good.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  7. Davida Chazan
    Jul 23, 2020 @ 17:08:41

    Yeah… I really want to read this one. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  8. sydneyeditor1
    Jul 23, 2020 @ 21:44:26

    Edith sounds fascinating and the situation she’s in, especially with Kurt so compelling. I’m particularly impressed that the last chapters impressed you so!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  9. Helen Murdoch
    Jul 26, 2020 @ 05:07:30

    As a teacher this is appealing and seems to be a different angle to WWII than we normally read.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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  11. jessicabookworm
    Jul 31, 2020 @ 17:46:54

    I really fancy this one for the setting and the recipes. As a teenager, I also really enjoyed Rees’ young adult books: Witch Child, Sorceress and Pirates!, so it would be good to try one of her adult novels now. Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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