Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Good Plain Cook - Bethan Roberts

I recently snagged an ARC of "The Good Plain Cook" by Bethan Roberts courtesy of Waterstones. I didn't know that ARCs existed prior to this, and being the avid reader that I am, I'm definitely going to see what I can do about acquiring some more.

Loosely based on the life of Peggy Guggenheim, "The Good Plain Cook" is a fairly typical tale of British class society. With overtones of novels such as "Atonement", it is set in Sussex in 1936 in the household of bohemian Ellen Steinberg and her wayward daughter Geenie, the book opens with the hiring of Kitty Allen as the household cook. Living with Ellen is her communist poet lover George Crane, and later his daughter Diana.

We follow the difficulties faced by the different characters. We see Kitty's struggle as she learns how to cook, and to cope with the alien and scandalous Steinberg household which is so much at odds with the class structure she is used to. In fact, the book leads you to wonder how people submitted to such a system. The interaction between the two children and the plot that they hatch, as they attempt to influence the adult relationships around them is a key strand to this tale.

The story unfolds through normal everyday interactions (and a few unusual ones too) and
Roberts skillfully develops her female protagonists. It is a clever book driven by the key female characters, yet remains an easy read. However, I did feel that the ending was just a little too abrupt and left me with a sense of confusion. However, it is a well recommended summer book.

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