The kitchen front A novel

Jennifer Ryan

Book - 2021

"From the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies' Choir comes a new World War II-set story of four women on the home front competing for a spot hosting a BBC wartime cookery program and a chance to better their lives. 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 put...ting on 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 contest presents 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 the 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 serve only to break it apart?"--

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War stories
Historical fiction
War fiction
New York : Ballantine Books [2021]
First edition
Physical Description
406 pages ; 25 cm
Main Author
Jennifer Ryan (author)
Review by Booklist Review

WWII wreaked havoc on Great Britain in many ways, including disrupting the food-supply chain. Rationing was a difficult aspect of everyday life for the women left at home. In order to boost spirits and provide creative meal inspirations, the BBC produced The Kitchen Front, an informative radio cooking program. Ryan's (The Spies of Shilling Lane, 2019) heartwarming novel brings four very different women together as they compete for a co-host spot on the popular show: a widow struggling to raise three sons; her aristocratic sister, trapped in an acrimonious marriage; a young kitchen maid with dreams of a better life; and a single, pregnant chef desperate to prove herself in a male-dominated field. Ryan exquisitely captures the realities of wartime domesticity, including period-accurate recipes. She delivers an inspiring tale about the unbreakable bonds of family, the importance of friendship, and the resilience of the female spirit. A positively uplifting read that is as soothing as a warm cup of Earl Grey on a gloomy morning. The perfect book for fans of The Great British Baking Show.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Ryan's wonderful latest takes her back to the British WWII homefront she chronicled in The Chilbury Ladies' Choir. This time through, the spotlight is on women making due under the restrictions of food rationing. Ryan structures the novel around a cooking competition in 1942, with the prize being a cohosting position on a food-themed radio program. Four contestants from a small town 15 miles south of London become unexpected friends as they compete for the prize: frazzled war widow Audrey Landon, her social-climber sister, Gwendoline; orphaned kitchen maid Nell Brown; and secretly pregnant chef Zelda Dupont. While the men of the novel tend to be one-dimensional villains or saints, the main characters grow in surprising but believable ways as they find ways to help each other after competing. A master of plotting and working in different registers, Ryan weaves in a romance for Nell and a subplot involving Gwendoline's abusive husband while keeping the cooking competition front and center, complete with tempting recipes. Readers with an appetite for homefront WWII novels will find this deeply satisfying. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, ICM Partners. (Feb.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Kirkus Book Review

Stir together estranged sisters, prisoners of war, dastardly men, and whale-meat pie recipes; leave to simmer. It's 1942, and England's women have been given a directive straight from Winston Churchill himself: Keep a stiff upper lip and do your part in your kitchen for the war effort. At the forefront of this messaging is a BBC radio show--hosted by a man, Ambrose Hart--that teaches Britain's housewives how to make a lot out of very little. The BBC decides the show would better reach its intended audience if it were co-hosted by a woman; to find this feminine voice it holds a three-part cooking competition whose prize is the coveted radio spot. Enter Audrey, a war-widowed mother of three with a scrappy bakery business; Gwendoline, Audrey's haughty sister, who's married to a bigwig factory owner; Nell, a meek but talented kitchen maid; and Zelda, an elite London chef with a secret. The book is divided into the three-part structure of the cooking competition, and while the novel is somewhat slow to start, Ryan hits her stride during "Main Course." As a bonus for history buffs, many chapters end with ration-conscious recipes ranging from the eccentric (sheep's head wrapped in its own tongue) to the more mundane (apple cake sweetened with honey instead of the hard-to-come-by sugar). Replete with a hearty amount of melodrama --"My own butler saw you with that fancy chef....Do you want to make a fool of me? Do you?"--and more than a dash of that wartime staple, saccharine--"You'll be surprised what the power of friendship can do"--this is nonetheless a creative and satiating novel. Certain to delight lovers of historical fiction and TV cooking competitions. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.