The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan
|The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Magda Healey|
|Summary: Sweet, but not sickly and with quite a backbone, Summer Seaside Kitchen takes a while to take off, but once it does, it's a well written story of belonging, love and identity very convincingly masquerading as a sweet romance with cooking, set in a luminous imaginary location somewhere between Shetland, Benbecula and Avalon. Recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: February 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
I have quite a bit of a sentimental attachment to Jenny Colgan. She wrote what I still consider one of the best chick-lit books EVER (it was Amanda's Wedding, if you're wondering, which both perfectly fulfils and occasionally transcends its nominal genre), was responsible for a British chick-lit version of the Great American Road Movie with Looking for Andrew McCarthy and then proceeded to write one of the most underrated, memorable, touching and truly magical romances set in the Coventry council planning department (I know, I know, but trust me here) called Working Magic. Obviously the last one had no chance with the girly crowd, what with a male main character, trans-genre features and Lancelot actually dying. Or almost, anyway. It had also had no chance with the mainstream reviewers because, well, no book with this kind of cover art will for a while yet and 'Jenny Colgan' doesn't sound anything like 'David Lodge', does it now? Crime has been somewhat rehabilitated as a genre, but the 21st century Austen is yet to be found among the authors of pastel paperbacks with that specific type of cover art. You know which one.
Colgan has a diverse portfolio of chick lit (and she also writes Dr Who novels) under her belt but starting with Meet me at the Cupcake Café in 2011, she has established herself as one of the queens of the chick-lit subgenre of comedy romance with food, the Queen of Hearts and the queen of fruit tarts, to an obvious benefit of her popularity and presumably her bank balance and to the sound of satisfied ahhhhs and mmmms from her growing fanbase. As you can see I do miss the Old Jenny a little bit, the brasher and swearier characters and the much more cutting humour. But. There is something to be said for a well written feelgood novel and I did enjoy the sweetshop, the café, the bakery and now the Summer Seaside Kitchen which has all the tried, tested and well loved ingredients of a perfectly escapist, mostly but not totally predictable chick-lit romance with a foodie angle that Jenny Colgan has made something of her house special.
There is the slightly dorky but sassy heroine Flora, who has escaped from the little Scottish island of Mure to the busy life in a big city down south. There is a seemingly hopeless lust/love interest in the form of Flora's beautiful but ruthless and oh-so-cold boss at the law firm, Joel. There is a competing love interest, a gay best friend, quite a bit of a family drama in the background and the making-food-as-love angle.
And then there is Mure. An attractive location -- either a big-funky-city or a quaint-country-village -- is important for this kind of a novel, but Mure is more than an attractive background or an archetypal her-place-on-earth the heroine finds. Mure is a lovingly created world, an imaginary island somewhere in the Scottish North, between Oban, Benbecula, Shetland and Avalon, with its own geography, mythology and culture, awash in nearly-constant light at the time of the book's events, featuring whales and storms and Aurora Borealis but not a single midge. It's a beautiful, magical place and it comes alive in the novel, just as Flora comes alive when she travels back to her native island and her not-so-glorious past on a work assignment that proves to be life changing not just for our heroine.
And if I seem to be mocking the chick-lit-romance clichés, I am but only a little bit and with a big dollop of love. Such books are written and read for comfort and entertainment, their cream and sparkle a mirror image to the red blood of serial killer police procedurals. And comforting entertainment and entertaining comforts the Summer Seaside Kitchen provides in huge quantities without being too simplistic. Yes, the characters, including the millionaire landowners and their ilk, turn out to be fundamentally good and touchingly vulnerable, but they have a level of adult complexity not always found in chick lit, and the actual story is as much about the standards of life decisions and romance as it is about belonging, notions of home and family and identity. And selkies, There are selkies too.
If you like this sub-genre of youngish romance, you might enjoy Recipe for Love by Katie Fforde which is set during a cooking competition, while The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella recounts romantic (and rather sexy) adventures of a high-flying lawyer heroine who has to learn to cook very quickly indeed. Romantic cooking, this time in Italy, is also the focus of The Food of Love by Anthony Capella. A diverse variety of contemporary romance can be found at Bookbag's Chick Lit Picks.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan at Amazon.com.
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