The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan


Our four ladies are well-to-do Gwendoline, her widowed sister Audrey, kitchen maid Nell and unmarried expectant mother Zelda.  Nell is Gwendoline’s maid and Zelda is Audrey’s lodger … and, as I said, it’s really not very clear why the search for a BBC nationwide producer is restricted to one village, and four women who are connected to each other, and it really makes very little sense; but it is!  The idea is to make dishes which are as tasty as possible but can be easily achieved given the restrictions imposed by rationing, and one thing it shows is how people in rural areas, with access to items growing wild and animals which could be killed off ration (sorry, I couldn’t think of a nice way of putting that!) had a big advantage over urban dwellers who could only obtain what could be bought in shops or grown in gardens or allotments.

Audrey’s coming to terms with her husband’s death, and orphaned Nell is coming to terms with the loss of the woman who was like a mother to her.  Gwendoline’s marriage has collapsed and she reports her husband for black marketeering.  Zelda is trying to decide whether or not to keep the baby.  They all bond and end up opening a restaurant together.

It’s far from brilliant, but it’s an easy read, and, amid all the Second World War books around at the moment, it’s good to see one about the oft-neglected issue of food rationing, which had such a big impact on everyone on the Home Front.  Not bad.



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