Review: The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

 

Title: The Kitchen Front

Author: Jennifer Ryan

Published: 3rd March 2022, Pan Macmillan UK

Status: Read March 2022 courtesy Pan Macmillan/Netgalley 

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My Thoughts:

 

Loosely inspired by true events, The Kitchen Front is an enjoyable historical novel from Jennifer Ryan set in England during WWll.

Two years into WWII, food shortages have hit England hard and with rationing imposed, women are urged to make do with what they have when it comes to feeding their families. Advice comes from all quarters, including cooking demonstrations sponsored by the Ministry for Food, and weekly radio shows like the BBC’s ‘The Kitchen Front’, which is hosted by Ambrose Hart, a former travel writer obviously a little out of his depth. To increase their appeal to the housewives of Britain, the BBC asks Hart to hold a wartime cooking contest in his local village of Fenley, on London’s outskirts. Open to ‘professional’ cooks, three rounds over three months-Starter, Main and Dessert- scored out of ten will decide a winner who will become Hart’s cohost on the ‘The Kitchen Front’.

Five women join the competition-estranged sisters Lady Gwendoline Strickland and and war widowed mother of three boys, Audrey Langdon; manor house cook, Mrs Quince and her young assistant Nell Brown; and displaced Cordon Bleu trained chef, Zelda DuPont. All are determined to win, the prize offering each of them something they need.

Predictably, though not disappointingly so, the contest and its reward comes to matter less as the women are pushed together due to a series of circumstances, some convenient, others dramatic. Emphasising the themes of integrity, friendship and community, the women find the goals they hope to achieve through winning the competition-purpose, money, independence, and career ambition-are best met with the support of each other.

Along with the challenges of wartime on the home front, Ryan touches on many issues such as grief, domestic violence, patriotism and corruption. There’s romance for Nell too when she meets a handsome Italian prisoner of war billeted to Fenley Hall. I thought the pace was good and the story elements well balanced.

I found the details about rationing and wartime menus to be fascinating. Recent grocery store shortages and price rises due to CoVid and other disasters have been a struggle to cope with, I can’t imagine their struggle, or that I’d have any luck convincing my family to eat sheep head stew or whale meat pie (recipes for both, and more, are included in the book).

Celebrating women and friendship, The Kitchen Front is a pleasant, heartwarming read.

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Available from Pan Macmillan UK

Or your preferred retailer

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carol
    Mar 10, 2022 @ 05:52:14

    I loved this story!

    Like

    Reply

  2. sandysbookaday
    Mar 10, 2022 @ 10:54:12

    Yeah, I think I will pass on the Sheep Head Stew and the Whale Meat Pie too, thanks Shelleyrae. I really wanted to read this but was declined for it, so I hope my library orders a copy. ❤📚

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. Kathryn
    Mar 10, 2022 @ 15:16:39

    I enjoyed this book, your last comment about the food and your family elicited a laugh from me. I guess all in all we haven’t truly been put to the sword yet. Hope you are escaping the floods still.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  4. Mystica
    Mar 11, 2022 @ 01:30:26

    A story I would enjoy too. Thanks for the review.

    Like

    Reply

  5. Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies
    Mar 11, 2022 @ 02:45:26

    Lovely review! I enjoyed the book very much as well. The description of the rationing and the creativity required to feed the women’s families was so interesting, and I really liked the emphasis on friendship and community.

    Like

    Reply

  6. joyweesemoll
    Mar 12, 2022 @ 00:18:48

    I’ve been meaning to get to this book — I think I’ll put it higher on my list. I could use something heartwarming, right now.

    Like

    Reply

  7. Tina
    Mar 12, 2022 @ 03:01:44

    I like Jennifer Ryan and like Sandy, I was declined for the book but the library has a hold for me.

    Like

    Reply

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  9. Davida Chazan
    Mar 22, 2022 @ 02:23:09

    This sounds really good. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  10. Marg
    Apr 10, 2022 @ 10:45:57

    I have this on my TBR list too!
    Thanks for sharing this to the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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