Jennifer Ryan's THE KITCHEN FRONT-- Historical Fiction at Its Best
by Sara Voigt (@meaningfulmadness)
Thanks to Partner Random House for my copy of Jennifer Ryan’s The Kitchen Front. Ya’ll, I LOVED this book so much. Set in Britain during World War II, this book follows 4 women who are affected by the war and their circumstances in different ways.
First, there is Audrey, a woman raising 3 boys on her own after her is killed during active duty in the war. She is an excellent baker and runs a pie business to support her sons and to make ends meet after her husband’s death. Next, there is Gwendolyn. She is Audrey’s estranged sister, who has married a rich businessman. She is a representative for the Ministry of War and does food demonstrations for women to show them how to use food rations to make meals for their families. Next, there is Nell, a maid in the manor owned by Gwendolyn and her husband. She is an orphan and is destined to be a domestic worker for the rest of her life if something doesn’t change. Last, there is Zelda, a top chef from one of London’s most reputable restaurants. She is pregnant and fighting to return to London to become the head chef at a renowned restaurant.
"Loneliness was something she ignored, although sometimes she could feel it tugging at her insides, like a forgotten stitch."
Each of these women is excited to learn of The Kitchen Front contest. The Kitchen Front is a popular radio show that instructs women on how to use their food rations to make meals for their families. The BBC, after realizing the need for a female (Gasp!) voice on the program, sponsors a contest to find a co-host for the male host of the program. What ensues is a journey through each of these women's lives and a study of how found families can be just as amazing as biological families.
I loved this book so very much. The four women at the heart of this book are each interesting characters in their own right. The way the narrative develops and comes together in the end worked so well. Telling a story through alternating perspectives is one of my favorite literary devices, and with each of the four women’s perspectives represented throughout the book, it was a very satisfying reading experience for me.
I also learned a lot about how food rationing worked in Britain during WWII. I have read many historical fiction books that center on WWII, but never have I read one from this perspective and learned what so many of the women who were left with their families had to do to make sure their families were fed. The Author's Note at the end provides even more information regarding rationing in Britain and how long it lasted. It lasted years and years after the war ended. Definitely do not skip the Author's Note in this book.
If you enjoy historical fiction, stories about female relationships, and overcoming hardships, I think you will really love this charming book. I alternated with listening to the audio, and the audiobook is fantastic. Bonus: There are recipes sprinkled throughout the book that correspond to the events taking place in the story! Be still my heart. Needless to say, I would highly recommend Jennifer Ryan’s The Kitchen Front.
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