Thursday, 30 November 2017

Maggie's Kitchen by Caroline Beecham (Romance, 9/10E)

 July 2017, Ebury Press, 400 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Summary from Penguin 
When the British Ministry of Food urgently calls for the opening of restaurants to feed tired and hungry Londoners during WWII, aspiring cook Maggie Johnson seems close to realising a long-held dream. After overcoming a tangle of red tape, Maggie's Kitchen finally opens its doors to the public and Maggie finds that she has an unexpected problem – her restaurant is too popular, and there’s not enough food to go round.

Then Maggie takes twelve-year-old street urchin Robbie under her wing and, through him, is introduced to a dashing Polish refugee, digging for victory on London's allotments. Between them they will have to break the rules in order to put food on the table, and, perhaps, find love into the bargain...

Nayu's thoughts
Regular readers will know that it's fairly rare for me to review a war book, because I find them too upsetting. However, I was really intrigued by the British Restaurant which Maggie opened, as I'd never heard of it (that I can remember) and when I was at school I studied World War 2. I liked the idea of Maggie taking Robbie under her wing, and his story is far from straight forward. I do wish he'd shared the truth of his situation with Maggie sooner, because she would have been able to help him further. He had really good intentions, but often did not entirely legal things which caused occasional trouble for Maggie. 
I loved Maggie's spirit: she has suffered a lot in life, but, with a lot of coaxing from her friends (including family, although there are a few incidents that happen which made me feel even sorrier for Maggie), she applies to open the unique restaurant which has so many ingredients that are ordinarily rationed. She is hardworking, she finds the responsibility a bit daunting, and is endlessly frustrated when the guy in charge is difficult and resistant to her brilliant ideas which would have helped improve everyone's lives a little bit. I loved how she always kept a secret stash of extra special ingredients for a rainy day, bringing them out for special occasions. 

While I must have learnt about dig for victory gardens, I never really thought about their impact on peoples' lives, something which is clear in Maggie's life. I think the community gardens are a brilliant idea, I definitely felt the sense of camaraderie between the gardeners, and the variety it brought to people's some what restricted diets. There were several parts that made me wish I wasn't reading it (major war elements) but overall I'm glad I did, and I'm putting it on the reread shelf. The blossoming relationship between Maggie and Janek - he definitely has a bit of mystery in his life. Unfortunately I don't feel this was fully explored as much as it could have been - it felt a bit rushed when it happened at the end, I'd have liked a bit more intrigue there. Apart from that it's a brilliant read, one which taught me a lot about WW2, and I'm sure every reader will learn something too. 

Find out more on Caroline's website

Suggested read 
Another book which made a big impression on me is one about the Suffragette era, by a favourite children's author: The Princess and The Suffragette by Holly Webb (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E) 

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