When I read The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs way back in 2016 I knew I had encountered a very special author. You’ll find a guest post from Annabel and my review of The Joyce Girl here. I loved it so much that it was one of my books of the year in 2016, and, despite promising myself I wouldn’t take on any further new blog tours this year I simply had to be involved in this one for Annabel’s latest book, The Language of Food. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate. I’m delighted to share my review of The Language of Food today.
Published by Simon and Schuster on 3rd February 2022, The Language of Food is available for pre-order through these links.
The Language of Food
‘A sensual feast of a novel, written with elegance, beauty, charm and skill in a voice that is both lyrical and unique. The Language of Food is an intriguing story with characters that leap off the page and live, but what sets it apart from it’s contemporaries is Abbs’ outstanding prose’ Santa Montefiore
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.
My Review of The Language of Food
A cookery book sparks Ann’s memories.
Reviewing The Language of Food is going to be tricky. I just want to say that is it absolutely fantastic and everyone should buy it and read it over and over again, but I fear that won’t really explain why I adore it sufficiently. Brimming with an intangible, quiet, magnificence The Language of Food is a book to savour: to savour Annabelle Abbs’ exquisite prose, her delectable descriptions and the sheer joy of such a beautifully written narrative.
The plot is relatively simple, albeit steeped in the most assiduous historical research and blended with imagination and the kind of sumptuous and affecting prose most authors can only aspire to. Rich in detail and description, there isn’t a superfluous word so that instead of feeling contrived and bloated (excuse the food metaphor), The Language of Food is as much as delight for the reader as any of the mouth-watering tastes that dance on Eliza and Ann’s palates. It’s just wonderful.
I love the fact that both Ann and Eliza have first person narratives, giving them equal status in the book despite their different social class, because The Language of Food is a feminist text, outlining the role of women in history and giving them a voice in an enormously satisfying way. The treatment of women in society, marriage, motherhood, family, social status, connection, friendship, and so on, all swirl through this story so that by the time I read the final entry from Ann I was moved, uplifted and so entranced by the story that it was a surprise to find myself back in the twenty first century. The intense relationship between Ann and Eliza is vivid and compelling so that the prosaic setting of the kitchen where much of the action takes place feels completely authentic.
Sumptuous, immersive and totally mesmerising, I loved The Language of Food. As I neared the end I read increasingly slowly because I didn’t want the experience of living alongside Eliza and Ann to end. It may only be January, but The Language of Food is going to be hard to beat as my book of the year. If you only read one book this year, make sure it’s The Language of Food.
About Annabel Abbs
Annabel Abbs is the new rising star of biographical historical novels. She grew up in Bristol, Sussex and Wales before studying English Literature at the University of East Anglia and Marketing at the University of Kingston. Her debut novel The Joyce Girl was a Guardian Reader’s Pick and her second novel Frieda: The Original Lady Chatterley earned critical acclaim including Times 2018 Book of the Year. She regularly appears on national and regional media, with recent appearances on Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and Sky News, and is popular on the literary festival circuit. She was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, the Caledonia Novel Award and the Waverton GoodRead Award. Annabel lives in London with her husband and four children.
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