I am indebted to Charlotte Ledger from Harper Impulse and to Netgalley for an advanced reader copy of Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson in return for an honest review. Published in e-book by Harper Impulse on 29th April 2016 Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe will also be available in paperback from 16th June 2016. It can be found with all Debbie’s books here.
My Review of Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe
Laura is still grieving for her husband, killed as the result of a tragic accident and so when the opportunity arrives to spend the summer working in a cafe in Budbury in Dorset, she decides to take it. Laura, son Nate, daughter Lizzie and aged Labrador Jimbo head off for a summer that will impact their lives for ever.
I have a confession to make. I have never read anything by Debbie Johnson before and, because there seem to be so many books based during a particular season in a cafe, I thought this would be an entertaining, lightweight read that I could forget as soon as I read it. It is indeed entertaining, but it is certainly not superficial and I absolutely loved it.
There are so many qualities to Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe. The setting is brilliantly described so that it took me back to my own visits to Dorset and made me want to return immediately. I may well be staying at the Lancombe Country Cottages Debbie Johnson refers to at the end of the book very soon!
The characters are typical of the cast one might expect in this kind of read, but that does not mean they are two dimensional. I found them all believable and realistic. I particularly liked Jimbo the dog who not only seems a character in his own right, but is also a highly effective catalyst for action. Laura’s first person account is totally engaging so that she feels like a friend rather than a character. I was desperate for her to find happiness and I think all readers, regardless of age or gender, will recognise elements of their own personality in Laura’s depiction. Indeed, I thought even the most minor characters had a depth to them that helped enhance the well plotted and entertaining story.
The emotions presented are so well done that I found myself smiling frequently, laughing aloud on several occasions and crying a few times too. Again, Debbie Johnson manages to avoid cliche even when food is seen as a healing property. There are some weighty themes presented with a clever hand in Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe – grief, friendship, family, relationships – all of which are satisfyingly explored. Even ageing and dementia are represented, giving depth to what might otherwise wrongly be dismissed (by readers like me who sometimes make judgements without having read a book) as a frivolous story. There is, in fact, a sense of classical literature as there is unity of time, place and action which serve to enhance the reader’s experience.
I found Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe a delightful, satisfying and well written read that I loved. I would recommend it to any reader who wants to understand emotions in a wide range of characters whilst enjoying the beauty of a wonderful setting. And even better – there are lots of wonderful recipes to try too!
Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe
The Comfort Food Cafe is perched on a windswept clifftop at what feels like the edge of the world, serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle cafe overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security – a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu.
For widowed mum-of-two Laura Walker, the decision to uproot her teenaged children and make the trek from Manchester to Dorset for the summer isn’t one she takes lightly, and it’s certainly not winning her any awards from her kids, Nate and Lizzie. Even her own parents think she’s gone mad.
But following the death of her beloved husband David two years earlier, Laura knows that it’s time to move on. To find a way to live without him, instead of just surviving. To find her new place in the world, and to fill the gap that he’s left in all their lives.
Her new job at the cafe, and the hilarious people she meets there, give Laura the chance she needs to make new friends; to learn to be herself again, and – just possibly – to learn to love again as well.
For her, the Comfort Food Cafe doesn’t just serve food – it serves a second chance to live her life to the full…