Chop Chop by Simon Wroe
|Chop Chop by Simon Wroe|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Ribald, raucous, noirish and completely NOT what I was expecting. If you have a dark sense of humour you will love this book.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: April 2014|
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2014
Long listed for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2015
'Monocle' isn't his real name, but that's what the brigade at The Swan would call him once they knew him well enough to insult him. He has an English Literature degree, you see, and the chefs think that's what he would have worn. He'd no interest in cooking, but was two months behind on his rent and being the lowest-rung chef in a gastropub in Camden was the only job that he could get. His co-workers are deranged and borderline criminal whilst the head chef, Bob is a top-rank sadist constantly on the look out for material on which to practice. Monocle has little choice but to stay - given the situation between his parents, going home isn't really an option.
When we first meet Monocle he's writing a book, aided (in the rather loose sense of the word) by his editors - Racist Dave and Ramilov. They want to make certain that the tale is told fully without pussyfooting around the truth or concentrating too much on events such as the time that Bob deliberately poured bubbling hot caramel onto Monocle's hand as punishment for some perceived misdemeanour and Racist Dave feels that he definitely ought to be playing a more prominent part. At first you'll suspect that you're in for a memoir about life in a professional kitchen, but beware - life is about to turn nasty for everyone at the Swan.
If you eat out regularly Chop Chop should probably be filed under 'too much information'. The characters - particularly Bob, Racist Dave and Ramilov - are extreme, but, unfortunately, all too believable. Between them there's probably not much that they can't take against in a loud-mouthed and uninformed way. Simon Wroe was a chef and it's obvious that he knows exactly what he's talking about - this is not a book where every last bit of research has been fit in somewhere on the grounds that it would be a pity to waste it. You actually have the feeling that Wroe could tell you a lot more stories - and that some of them would really make your hair curl. If you want to get a real feel for a professional kitchen, forget MasterChef and read this book. (By the way, Greg Wallace is actually an insult...)
Whether you find the book funny will depend on your sense of humour. Personally I didn't and I was sickened by a couple of instances of animal cruelty, but I could appreciate the considerable skill which goes into writing a debut novel which purports to be an amateur's attempt to write a book. The dialogue is pitch perfect, the seedy underbelly of Camden infects the whole story and the pacing is simply brilliant with a twist at the end which knocked me sideways. Simon Wroe is definitely n author to watch and although he wouldn't be my choice for the Costa Prize for 2014 I'd still think him a worthy winner.
I'd like to thank the publishers or sending a copy to the Bookbag.
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