Title: In the Kitchen
Author: Monica Ali
Pages: 448 pages
Publisher: Scribner (June 16, 2009)
I was so excited. The cover of the book had me thinking immediately that I would love this book!! This book appealed to me due to many of my loves, such as my love of cooking, British Authors, Hell's Kitchen and all things Gordon Ramsey!! Unfortunately, I could not find a graphic of the book cover I have.
Gabriel Lightfoot is the executive chef of a once majestic London hotel, the Imperial Hotel. He has a diverse group of kitchen help and a bully of a restaurant manager. He has aspirations for his future that include, starting his own restaurant, marrying Charlie and reconnecting with his family. In the Kitchen begins with the discovered of the death of one of the restaurants porters, Yuri. Yuri was a Ukrainian who seemed to have been living in the basement of the hotel. The death of Yuri is the beginning of many complications in the life of Gabe.
Shortly after Yuri’s death, Gabe discovers Lena in the basement. She had been staying with Yuri prior to his death. Gabe is drawn to Lena and an odd relationship begins between the two of them. He is haunted by a dream concerning the death of Yuri. Gabe’s father is diagnosed with Cancer and Gabe’s relationship with his fiancé, Charlie goes sour. Gabe’s life begins to spiral out of control.
My Review: I have not read Brick Lane, so I cannot compare this work to Monica Ali’s previous work. This book struggled to hold my attention, especially towards the middle. I found the characters to be interesting, but never developed to a level where I cared what happened to them. I thought some great issues were touched on in the book such as: immigrant slavery/labor force and mental illness. The diverse restaurant workers all had a story of their immigration, but the lack of development of them was a real missed opportunity to me.
I found myself feeling like I was always getting just a piece of the story. I wanted to know more about Gabe’s mother and her illness/life, more of the story of the lives of the diverse immigrant work force. I didn’t really find Gabe’s recollections of the time he spent with his father at the Mill to add much to the story.
I struggled to keep picking up this book. I wasn’t too concerned about getting back to Gabe. The story does start to gain some momentum towards the end as Gabe spirals into what I can only guess is a manic episode. But as quickly as Gabe’s manic episode began it ends very abruptly without any real intervention. The momentum of the ending came a bit too late for me!
3/5 – OK/ An Average Read (the ending caused me to bump the book up from a less than satisfying rating)