The Bookclub met on Tuesday 29th May to discuss their latest book; In the Kitchen by Monica Ali. (And they ate curry and had a natter!)
Here’s what our members had to say (about the book)…
Amid the fading glory of the Imperial Hotel, embattled Executive Chef Gabriel Lightfoot tries to maintain his culinary integrity in the hotel’s restaurant, while managing an unruly but talented group of immigrant cooks.
Gabriel Lightfoot is an enterprising man from a northern England mill town, making good in London. As executive chef at the once-splendid Imperial Hotel, he is trying to run a tight kitchen. But his integrity, to say nothing of his sanity, is under constant challenge from the competing demands of an exuberant multinational staff, a gimlet-eyed hotel management, and business partners with whom he is secretly planning a move to a restaurant of his own. Despite the pressures, all his hard work looks set to pay off. Until a worker is found dead in the kitchen’s basement. It is a small death, a lonely death — but it is enough to disturb the tenuous balance of Gabe’s life.
Elsewhere, Gabriel faces other complications. His father is dying of cancer, his girlfriend wants more from their relationship, and the restaurant manager appears to be running an illegal business under Gabe’s nose.
Enter Lena, an eerily attractive young woman with mysterious ties to the dead man. Under her spell, Gabe makes a decision, the consequences of which strip him naked and change the course of the life he knows – and the future he thought he wanted.
Unfortunately the book did not seem to grip the members! Several didn’t finish the book, with one actively abandoning it, another barely starting it and others not reaching the end despite it being selected 2 months earlier!
Chloe didn’t really start but that was mostly down to her preference for listening to books and the non availability of In the Kitchen on Audible. Kindle it had to be and whilst she did read the first 5% or so, it was clearly not gripping enough for her to make the time to continue.
Margaret disliked the main character and felt that the book ended inconclusively although the protagonist did garner more empathy towards the end. Naomi and both Kirstens also agreed that the story was very drawn out and could have been significantly shorter without detriment to the book. Naomi commented that despite the length of the book she felt that she never got to know the large array characters and as a result failed to care about them or invest in their stories. Sue was intrigued enough to continue reading despite the story’s protraction and Margaret felt that despite the various criticisms, the book wasn’t in itself ‘boring’ as such. Kirsten P meanwhile felt that she was constantly waiting for it to get better but finally abandoned it 3/4 of the way through as she felt the book was not in fact going to move to the expected next level.
As the book was chosen from a selection provided by Kirsten Ing based around the theme of food and recipes, she was incredibly disappointed that the book did not actually include any references to the food and cooking despite being set in a professional kitchen environment. All agreed that the book could actually have been set in any location where immigrant workers were abundant and felt that the kitchen setting was not utilised sufficiently to set the scene or ground the story.
Margaret commented on the author’s writing style which she did enjoy – the writing flowed and was easy to read without any stylistic irritations. Saying that, all agreed that the story and characterisation was ultimately ‘lazy’ leaving many querying which of the characters were being referred to at any one time.
A number of members had previously read the author’s debut and most successful book to date; Brick Lane which won significant plaudits and was made into a hit film in 2007. All who had read it agreed that it was a great book which led to the selection of In the Kitchen, the author’s third book released in 2009. They also agreed that Brick Lane is a far superior novel. Naomi, although not having read Brick Lane, commented that she believed that some authors only actually have one great story to tell. After reflection, the other readers agreed that this may well be the issue in this case.
Whilst the book was not considered to be actively bad, no member raved about it or gave it a score more than 5 out of 10. The characters were poorly drawn and lazily written. The story was unnecessarily protracted and remained in first gear throughout. Overall members were unlikely to recommend the book but would not write off the author and would continue to highly recommend her earlier debut novel.
4 Out of 10
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