The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan #BookReview #PanMacmillan #NetGalley #5*

From the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir comes an unforgettable novel inspired by true events of a BBC-sponsored wartime cooking competition.

Some wars will be fought at home…

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 behaviour. 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..

Absolutely Delightful!

A terrific story set in one of my favourite time periods!

As the second world war progresses, there is a dearth of the usual foodstuffs and the Ministry of Food is doing their utmost to entice the nation to use the more unusual – but available – fare. The Kitchen Front is broadcast on BBC radio, hosted by Ambrose but the powers-that-be think a female voice will garner more attention, hence a competition to find someone with the knowledge required to help feed a nation. Four women end up competing for this prized position: a young widow trying to keep body and soul together as well as a roof over the heads of her family whilst paying off her husband’s debts, a female chef tired of competing with men for top jobs, the local lady of the manor who is sick of her husband’s violence and their maid who wants more out of life than being a kitchen drudge.

I always enjoy novels concerning the domestic situation during either world war, and this is very much focused on rationing and survival. I’m sure many, like me, will shudder at the thought of eating some of the food mentioned in this book and yet – as my husband just said – if you’re hungry enough, you would eat it. The ingenious ways in which food was made palatable was captivating but there is more to this story than that; the lives of all four women are very different but all entirely believable and a stark reminder that domestic life carried on regardless of the war raging overhead. The author has her finger on the pulse of all things connected to this period and has crafted a superb story, beautifully written with well-developed characters and she has the ability to make you really care about each of them. Absolutely delightful, and easily worth all five glowing stars and a definite recommendation.

My thanks to the publisher for my copy via NetGalley; this is – as always – my honest, original and unbiased review.

Tags: historical fiction, WWII

Author Details

Jennifer Ryan grew up in the British countryside with a penchant for climbing trees and a wonderful grandmother who told her hilarious stories about the Second World War.

As an adult, she became a nonfiction book editor, first editing politics and economics at The Economist Books, and then moving on to the BBC, DK, and other publishers, editing books on health, cooking, wine, and history.

All this time, though, she harboured a longing to share her grandmother’s stories about the war, and so she embarked on an MA in fiction at Johns Hopkins University. The novel that she wrote while there–The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir–became a National Bestseller.

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