Fiction, Historical

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

In an effort to read more of my advance reader copies that I’d been hoarding on my shelves, and to continue with my mid-century feminist historical cozy fiction kick, I picked up The Kitchen Front last September. (I’m publishing the review now because the paperback is out on Tuesday here in the States).

Synopsis

From the publisher marketing:
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?

Review

In September I went hard into my new favorite subgenre – mid-century historical feminist fiction that is a touch cozy and overall makes me smile. I know, I’m working on shortening it. But the books of this subgenre, including The Jane Austen Society, Yours Cheerfully, and the forthcoming Bloomsbury Girls and Lessons in Chemistry are a group of books that have made me smile more than just about any other genre or subgenre that I’ve read in for quite some time, and that’s saying something given the number of different genres I read in.

Like many works of fiction that have come out in the last few years, I should have read The Kitchen Front sooner, but it came out when I was still reading primarily nonfiction. I did, at least, have the foresight to hang on to the ARC, knowing that a book billed as Downton Abbey meets The Great British Bake Off would be a book that I would definitely want to read. At some point. When I finally wanted to read fiction again.

All four main characters of The Kitchen Front are women I would absolutely love to be friends with at the end of the book. Our young widow, with young children, it’s her determination and perseverance through the worst heartbreak that inspires me. For her sister, it’s the (eventual) ability to admit when she has been wrong that I try to emulate. For our spunky kitchen maid, it’s her willingness to trust and open her heart that I admire. And for our trained chef, it’s her determination to make the most of her life as a woman in her field that brought me to tears of frustration and joy.

Every woman can find herself in one of our four protagonists. If you grew up with stories your grandmother told of her Victory garden as I did, you’ll find reminders throughout about her experiences. There are recipes included that can be done on a ration book, but that also inspire awe with what families were able to create with so little. And if you just want an inspiring historical fiction book set during WWII, you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through BookShop or your local independent, in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon.

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