The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan is not the typical WWII novel – its focus is on the rationing that became part of British life during that time, and the women who had to get creative to feed their families without the usual staples. (Did you know that rationing in Britain lasted until nine years after the war ended?) The BBC broadcasts a radio program called ‘The Kitchen Front’ to promote creative ways to cook with the rations available. The novel follows four women who are chosen to enter a cooking contest which will air on the program.
The four main characters come from different stations in life, which was a great way to create an overall picture of that time:
Audrey – a kind war widow with three boys, struggling financially and personally
Lady Gwendolyn – Audrey’s estranged sister, wealthy, willing to play dirty to win
Zelda – a talented chef who lost her job when her hotel restaurant was bombed
Nell – a shy kitchen maid in Lady Gwendolyn’s manor
Each character is well developed and I enjoyed the historical tidbits about cooking throughout the book. There are even recipes of the time included – very fun to read, even though I would probably never make one.
It was fun to read this cozy book and learn things I didn’t know at the same time. The antagonism between the four women begins to change into fragile friendships as the novel progresses. In the end, the cooking contest doesn’t seem as important as the new lives the friends can build together.
If you love history and want to know more about rationing . . . check out this video: Living on Rations in the Second World War