The Kitchen Front
by Jennifer Ryan
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Pub Date 23 Feb 2021 | Archive Date 31 May 2021
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, Ballantine Books
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY GOOD HOUSEKEEPING • “This story had me so hooked, I literally couldn’t put it down.”—NPR
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?
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 259 members
Jennifer Ryan is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. I was delighted to be able to read an advance copy of her latest book, The Kitchen Front, and I'm happy to report that it's another winner. The book is well-written and has an interesting cast of characters. The focus on food rationing during the war and the lives of women then was educational and extremely interesting to me. I thought the book brought that period of time to life, and I got completely absorbed in the lives of the characters. With quarantining during the pandemic, I found I could relate to their circumstances even more. I found myself wishing I had planted a garden when it first began to be more self-sufficient. I think book groups would enjoy discussing this book. I highly recommend it and look forward to Ryan's next book.
As a Jennifer Ryan fan, I was eager to read "The Kitchen Front." Her earlier book, "The Chilbury Ladies' Choir" reminded me very much of another historical fiction favorite, "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society." I was expecting that "The Kitchen Front" would be similar to these books. This latest novel is great, but it was a bit different.
"The Kitchen Front" follows the lives of four very different women: an orphan, a widowed mother, an unhappy society wife, and an unwed mother-to-be who is also a trained chef. The story takes place during World War II in a small village outside of London. War time rationing is in effect and finding ways to cook delicious food is a serious challenge. The four women come together because they are all competing to be on a BBC radio cooking show.
Throughout the competition, the friendships between the four women deepen as they help each other through different challenges. The story is really about their friendships and the power of community. While there are some love interests thrown in, "The Kitchen Front" reminded me most of some of the famous books about female friendships and food in the American South - Fannie Flagg's "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" or "Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood" by Rebecca Wells.
"The Kitchen Front" includes recipes for all for all of the recipes, although I can't say I wanted to try all of the ration-based foods! The book tells a good story set during an interesting period in time. Fans of Jennifer Ryan, historical fiction, or stories about strong female friendships will enjoy this read. It kept me engaged and blessedly helped me pass the time during this quarantine!
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