In the Kitchen by Monica Ali
June 23, 2010 8 Comments
In the Kitchen (2009) is the newest book by Monica Ali. She’s well-known for her book Brick Lane (also made into a movie), which I enjoyed a lot. I really didn’t care for her next book, Alentejo Blue, mainly because there were too many characters and too many little stories in the book, while there wasn’t much of a main story going through the book. In other words, it resembled a book of short stories, and I’m not much of a short story reader (they finish too soon!).
In the Kitchen was lent to me by a friend, who had put the book aside without finishing it. “Too boring”, was her verdict. With Brick Lane in the back of my mind, I was happy to try it. I also am a fan of restaurant and cooking reality shows. When they’re on, I usually remember to watch the British “Master Chef” and “The Restaurant”. While reading the book, I found out that the kitchen in question was one in a hotel restaurant, which then also brought back good memories of the t.v. series “Hotel Babylon”.
So, I started off reading this book with a positive mind. The first part of the book takes place mainly in the hotel, and thus fitted perfectly with my expectations of the book. Thereafter, the story moves to the family (father, grandmother, sister) of the main character, and to his flat mate. This was still interesting, but I had to adjust my expectations a little.
Gabriel Lightfoot, our protagonist, an executive chef at the Imperial Hotel in London, which has lost some of its glamor of earlier days. He’s the boss of the kitchen and is working towards starting his own restaurant, which he hopes to call Lightfoot’s. At the very start of the book, a body is found in the cellars of the hotel, an immigrant porter, who may or may not have been working legally at the hotel.
At first, Gabriel worries that this death will negatively influence his business partners’ decision to financially support the new venture. Soon there are many other worries to keep him busy. Things go from bad to worse.
This is not an uplifting book. It’s a book about a man making decisions the reader knows he is going to regret. It’s cleverly written. At first, Gabriel seems a Chef who is in control, both at work and at home, but during the story there are more and more clues to his fallibility. As a reader, I sometimes thought, “Gabriel, you have to sort this out, it’s going to go out of hand” and I saw him getting further into trouble all the time. In the end, it all gets very much out of hand. Still, the book ends on a positive note.
Well-written. Although not uplifting, I still reached for the book quite happily. Rating: 4/5
Extra: See my review of Untold Story.