Two lonely women. An unlikely friendship. And one big life lesson: never be ashamed to ask for more.
No woman dreams of being unceremoniously dumped and moving back in with her mother on the eve of her 40th birthday. Food technician Kate Parker’s first response? Denial, long days under her duvet, and lots of cheesy pasta.
A reluctant Kate finds herself volunteering at the Lauderdale House For Exceptional Ladies. There she meets 96-year-old Cecily Finn – spiky and sharp as a pin, but the spark has gone out of her. She has resigned herself to the imminent end.
Having no patience with Kate’s self-pity, Cecily prescribes her a self-help book with a difference – it’s a 1957 cookery manual, featurning menus for anything life can throw at ‘the easily dismayed’. It promises the answers to essential life questions: ‘what shall one give to one’s rich aunt Emma that will be palatable but not prodigal; to one’s husband’s managing director, at once memorable and modest; one’s old love’s new love; the man one hopes will stay on after dinner; the man one hopes will not…’
Can Kate find a menu to help a broken-hearted woman let go? If Kate moves forward, might Cecily too?
The cookbook holds the secrets of Cecily’s own remarkable and heartbreaking story, and the love of her life. It will certainly teach Kate a thing or two.
So begins a friendship between two lonely and stubborn souls – one at the end of her life, one stuck in the middle – who come to show each other that food is for feasting, life is for living, and the way to a man’s heart is…irrelevant!
“Life has given you a path even if it’s not your preferred one.”
This book was a case of bookstagram made me do it! I had been seeing this beautiful, bright cover everywhere with comments and reviews about how great it was and I had to buy it. Then a few days after it arrived I was having a difficult day and was in need of something lighthearted to cheer me up so I decided to abandon my planned and “should read” books to start this. It was the best decision I could have made. This book was a joy to read and is a page-turner that is perfect for sunny summer days and reading outside.
This beautifully written novel transported me into Kate’s world and I wanted to stay there. Her world was far from perfect but it was alluring. I turned 40 a few months ago and while I’m not in the same situation as Kate, like many people I can relate to my life looking very different to the one I once thought I’d have at this at this age. In fact, Kate was relatable to me in lots of ways, including how she was trying in vain to hold on to the wrong relationship because she didn’t want to be alone. When you love someone and realise they don’t treat you right it is easy to stick your head in the sand and tell yourself it’s okay because the idea of starting again is too scary. You feel like there’s no real reason to end the relationship and ignore the red flags. That being said, like Kate’s friends I was willing her to see that Nick was not going to commit and stop wasting her time waiting and making excuses for him. Settling never ultimately leaves you happy.
I didn’t envy Kate living back home with her Mum. Living back home as an adult isn’t easy but with a Mum who is into self-help books in a big way, psycho-analysing her and pressuring her to date so much that she objects to Kate volunteering and wasting “prime dating hours” it is a nightmare. Though it did make for fun reading and I loved Rita’s overbearing and interfering character. Ultimately she does want what’s best for her daughter but just goes about it the wrong way.
“First you are young, then you are middle-aged, then you are old, then you are wonderful.”
Cecily Finn, the cantankerous 97-year-old who doesn’t mince her words was by far my favourite character. She first meets Kate during her first cooking demo at Lauderdale House For Exceptional Ladies and the two don’t get on at all. But they soon find they have more in common than they first thought. Cecily is highly intelligent, bored, says what she thinks, and refuses to admit she needs help from anyone. She rarely joins in any of the activities or sits outside and is just waiting to die. I loved her pearls of wisdom, was often laughing out loud when she was on the page and the parts where she told her life story were a highlight for me. Seeing the beautiful, true friendship that blossomed between her and Kate was a delight to read.
The book at the heart of this story – ‘Food For Thought: A Cookery Book for Entertaining Occasions’ – was like a character in its own right. I loved the idea behind this cookbook and how Kate’s discovery of it and practical use of it in her life helped her find confidence. The one problem I had with it is that it made me very hungry but on the positive side I have looked up some recipes for things I’d never heard of and am hoping to try them at some point.
The Woman Who Wanted More is a book about life, change, not settling for second best, making the most of what cards you are dealt, finding yourself, finding happiness, love, friendship, self discovery, and how we can find similarities in ourselves and those we think so different from us. It made me laugh, smile and cry (the blue foot incident is one that springs to mind – so funny), and was the perfect way to end my reading month and the first half of the year.The author’s notes are a must-read. For me they made the book all the more special and I fell in love with it even more.
This is an uplifting, deliciously delightful and refreshing book. A perfect summer read that I think everyone, especially women like me that are in or nearing their forties, should read. It was the kind of book you can’t put down but you also want to read slowly so you can savour every moment. Sometimes you don’t go looking for a book but the perfect one finds you; that’s certainly how I feel about The Woman Who Wanted More.