Published: February 3rd 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this exquisite and beautiful novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Simon & Schuster UK for the gorgeous gifted ARC.
Eliza Acton, despite having never before boiled an egg, became one of the world’s most successful cookery writers, revolutionizing cooking and cookbooks around the world. Her story is fascinating, uplifting and truly inspiring.
Told in alternate voices by the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, and with recipes that leap to life from the page, The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is the most thought-provoking and page-turning historical novel you’ll read this year, exploring the enduring struggle for female freedom, the power of female friendship, the creativity and quiet joy of cooking and the poetry of food, all while bringing Eliza Action out of the archives and back into the public eye.
“Neat and elegant, Miss Acton. Bring me a cookery book as neat and elegant as your poems.”
The Language of Food tells the story of Eliza Acton, the woman who wrote what became known as the greatest British cookbook of all time. It follows her as she and her assistant, Ann Kirby, spend ten years creating the now-famous recipes. But it is so much more than a book about food and poetry. It is a story of strength, endurance, friendship and self-discovery that you won’t be able to put down.
“I have started to see poetry in the strangest of things: from the roughest nub of nutmeg to the pale parsnip seamed with soil. And this has made me wonder if I can write a cookery book that includes the truth and beauty of poetry.”
I’m not going to lie, a big part of the reason I wanted to read this book was the cover. I mean, look at it! It is simply beautiful. And I was delighted to find that inside the book was something every bit as breathtaking as it’s cover.
This delicious story is a readers and food lover’s paradise. Annabel Abbs is an exquisite wordsmith and storyteller, writing like a dream with lyrical and poetic prose that is woven together like the delicate folding of ingredients in a cake recipe. I was completely immersed and lost myself in the story, torn between wanting to savour each word like I would a luxury box of chocolates and needing to read it quickly so it sated my hunger. I loved how she combined fact with fiction so seamlessly that it was impossible to tell where one ends and another begins. Her vivid imagery transported me back in time to Victorian England, the tantalising whispers of scandal kept me guessing and the descriptions of food made my mouth water and stomach rumble; I wanted to eat everything! Well, almost everything (I’m not sure about eel or badger ham).
“There was something else about her too. A poignancy I can’t explain. A feeling that we are united in some odd and intricate way.”
Told in alternating chapters, this is a narrative driven by the thoughts, desires, actions and choices of two strong, captivating, complex and memorable female characters. They make unlikely friends, coming from such different backgrounds that they wouldn’t even recognise the life the other lived: Eliza raised as a lady in a wealthy family with a father that indulged her dreams while Ann lives in poverty trying to juggle survival with caring for a disabled, alcoholic father and a mother with severe mental health issues. But despite their apparent differences, they are also very alike. Both women possess an underlying strength that carries them through the darkest of times, go against societal expectations, and discover a shared talent and passion for cooking. I loved watching their bond blossom as they figured out their new roles in life side by side and seeing the kindness with which Eliza treats Ann even though she is one of her servants, allowing the girl to feel like she has value for the first time in her life. I knew nothing about this cookbook or these characters before starting this book but after reading I feel like they could be my closest friends, the author writing them so evocatively that they sprang to life from the pages. Eliza was a woman ahead of her time and I can see why she remains an inspiration for modern cooks to this day.
Decadent, sensuous, enthralling and heartwarming, The Language of Food is, quite simply, a work of art. A luscious feast for the imagination that will stir all of your senses, I can’t recommend this highly enough. Now I’m off to buy the author’s back catalogue!
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Annabel Abbs is the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, a fictionalised story of Lucia Joyce, daughter of James, and her relationship with Samuel Beckett. It won the Impress Prize for New Writers and the Spotlight Novel Award, and was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, the Caledonia Novel Award and the Waverton Good Read Award. The Joyce Girl was a Reader Pick in The Guardian 2016 and was one of ten books selected for presentation at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival, where it was given Five Stars by the Hollywood Reporter. It is currently being adapted for stage and screen.
Her second novel, Frieda, is a fictionalised story of Frieda Weekely, the German aristocrat who eloped with DH Lawrence and who was the inspiration for Lady Chatterley. It was a 2018 Times Book of the Year. Her 2019 non-fiction book, The Age-Well Project, explores the latest science of longevity and has been serialised in the Guardian and The Daily Mail.
Her journalism has appeared in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Irish Times, Tatler, The Author, Sydney Morning Herald, The Weekend Australian Review, Psychologies and Elle Magazine.
She earned a BA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia, where she now sponsors a post-graduate scholarship in creative writing, and an MA from Kingston. She was born in Bristol, and now lives in London and East Sussex.
BUY THE BOOK:
Waterstones* | Amazon*| Bookshop.org* | Blackwells (gorgeous indie edition with sprayed edges)
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Please check out the review from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.
Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx