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Miss Eliza's English Kitchen: A Novel of Victorian Cookery and Friendship

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In a novel perfect for fans of Hazel Gaynor’s A Memory of Violets and upstairs-downstairs stories, Annabel Abbs, the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, returns with the brilliant real-life story of Eliza Acton and her assistant as they revolutionized British cooking and cookbooks around the world. Before Mrs. Beeton and well before Julia Child, there was Eliza Acton, w In a novel perfect for fans of Hazel Gaynor’s A Memory of Violets and upstairs-downstairs stories, Annabel Abbs, the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, returns with the brilliant real-life story of Eliza Acton and her assistant as they revolutionized British cooking and cookbooks around the world. Before Mrs. Beeton and well before Julia Child, there was Eliza Acton, who changed the course of cookery writing forever. England 1837. Victorian London is awash with exciting new ingredients from spices to exotic fruits, but Eliza Acton has no desire to spend her days in the kitchen. Determined to be a poet and shamed by the suggestion she write a cookery book instead, she at first refuses to even consider the task. But then her father is forced to flee the country for bankruptcy, shaming the family while leaving them in genteel poverty. As a woman, Eliza has few options, so she methodically collects recipes while teaching herself the mysteries of the kitchen. And to her surprise, she discovers she is not only talented at cooking—she loves it. To assist her, she hires seventeen-year-old Ann Kirby, the impoverished daughter of a war-injured father and a mother losing her grip on reality. Under Eliza’s tutelage, Ann learns about poetry, cookery, and love, while unravelling a mystery in her mistress’s past. Through the art of food, Eliza and Ann develop an unusual friendship and break the mold of traditional cookbooks by adding elegant descriptions and ingredient lists, that are still used today. Told in alternate voices, this is an amazing novel of female friendship, the ensuring struggle for freedom, the quiet joy of cookery, and the place of food in creativity all while bringing Eliza Acton out of the archives and back into the public eye. 


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In a novel perfect for fans of Hazel Gaynor’s A Memory of Violets and upstairs-downstairs stories, Annabel Abbs, the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, returns with the brilliant real-life story of Eliza Acton and her assistant as they revolutionized British cooking and cookbooks around the world. Before Mrs. Beeton and well before Julia Child, there was Eliza Acton, w In a novel perfect for fans of Hazel Gaynor’s A Memory of Violets and upstairs-downstairs stories, Annabel Abbs, the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, returns with the brilliant real-life story of Eliza Acton and her assistant as they revolutionized British cooking and cookbooks around the world. Before Mrs. Beeton and well before Julia Child, there was Eliza Acton, who changed the course of cookery writing forever. England 1837. Victorian London is awash with exciting new ingredients from spices to exotic fruits, but Eliza Acton has no desire to spend her days in the kitchen. Determined to be a poet and shamed by the suggestion she write a cookery book instead, she at first refuses to even consider the task. But then her father is forced to flee the country for bankruptcy, shaming the family while leaving them in genteel poverty. As a woman, Eliza has few options, so she methodically collects recipes while teaching herself the mysteries of the kitchen. And to her surprise, she discovers she is not only talented at cooking—she loves it. To assist her, she hires seventeen-year-old Ann Kirby, the impoverished daughter of a war-injured father and a mother losing her grip on reality. Under Eliza’s tutelage, Ann learns about poetry, cookery, and love, while unravelling a mystery in her mistress’s past. Through the art of food, Eliza and Ann develop an unusual friendship and break the mold of traditional cookbooks by adding elegant descriptions and ingredient lists, that are still used today. Told in alternate voices, this is an amazing novel of female friendship, the ensuring struggle for freedom, the quiet joy of cookery, and the place of food in creativity all while bringing Eliza Acton out of the archives and back into the public eye. 

30 review for Miss Eliza's English Kitchen: A Novel of Victorian Cookery and Friendship

  1. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen by Annabel Abbs is a 2021 William Morrow Paperbacks publication. Eliza Acton’s original plan to become a poet came to an abrupt halt when a publisher dismissed her work and then had the audacity to suggest she write a cookery book. To make matters worse, her father suffered a reversal of fortune, prompting him to leave the country. Eliza, with limited options, reconsidered the publisher’s suggestion that she write a recipe book. But first, she must familiarize herse Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen by Annabel Abbs is a 2021 William Morrow Paperbacks publication. Eliza Acton’s original plan to become a poet came to an abrupt halt when a publisher dismissed her work and then had the audacity to suggest she write a cookery book. To make matters worse, her father suffered a reversal of fortune, prompting him to leave the country. Eliza, with limited options, reconsidered the publisher’s suggestion that she write a recipe book. But first, she must familiarize herself with a kitchen and gather recipes to add to her book. To help her with this task, she hires Ann Kirby, an impoverished young woman hoping to provide proper care for her ailing mother. Together, these women forge a bond while creating a series of popular cookbooks. It was a friendship that grew over time and endured for a lifetime. The story is told in dual narratives. Eliza’s thoughts and personal goals and challenges are very different from those Ann Kirby endured, but the women complemented one another beautifully. The characterizations are well done, with both women growing emotionally, gaining confidence and strength as individuals and as partners, each achieving their own personal and professional satisfaction. I really enjoyed this story, based the real Eliza Acton and her English cookery books, which I must confess, I was totally unfamiliar with. As a frequent reader of historical fiction, it is common to encounter dual timelines these days, which is okay most of the time, but not really my favorite, which was why I enjoyed the format the author used in this novel. Instead of a dual timeline, she used dual first-person narratives from the same time period. This made the story much more effective for me. The truth about Mrs. Beeton’s book is also interesting, and is something people should be made aware of, in my opinion. Overall, this is a lovely story of two very different women, from very different walks of life, coming together to create something worthwhile and helpful to generations of cooks who have benefitted from Eliza’s organization and instructions on not only the proper ingredients, but the steps needed to make the dishes a success. This format is still widely utilized today and has influenced several high-profile chefs over the years. Culinary enthusiast, and fans of strong historical female characters will not want to miss this one! 4.5 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ceecee

    4.5 rounded up. This novel is based on fact and tells the story of Eliza Acton and her assistant Ann Kirby who collaborate to produce one of the greatest cookery books of all time, so great in facts some recipes are plagiarised by Mrs Beeton - naughty Isabella! The story is told alternately by Eliza and Ann. First of all, what an absolute joy to read! You relish every word, savour the characterisation and delight at the delicious tempting recipes. All the characters are well portrayed but obviou 4.5 rounded up. This novel is based on fact and tells the story of Eliza Acton and her assistant Ann Kirby who collaborate to produce one of the greatest cookery books of all time, so great in facts some recipes are plagiarised by Mrs Beeton - naughty Isabella! The story is told alternately by Eliza and Ann. First of all, what an absolute joy to read! You relish every word, savour the characterisation and delight at the delicious tempting recipes. All the characters are well portrayed but obviously Eliza and Ann stand out. Eliza wants to be more than her spinsterhood, she’s on a mission to transform and change how things are done in the culinary world and it strikes me that so many of her ideas are modern so must have been revolutionary at the time. This includes giving precise weights and so on of the ingredients which is completely new. . I like how we get the tantalising hints of Eliza’s past and how her story unfolds, ideas which may well be grounded in fact. Ann is resourceful, clever, prepared to do what she has to in order to survive and you marvel at her commitment to her family as she strives so hard for her poor benighted mother. It’s fate that brings these two together and it seems it’s meant to be as their food ideas gel and compliment. I like the inclusion at the end of some of their recipes (receipts) though I’ll definitely pass on the eels! There are some fantastic descriptions of places such as London, the stinks, the colour, the sights and sounds all seem to jump off the pages as you see what Eliza and Ann see. Through the different social status of the two women we get a good glimpse of the role and place of women in society in the nineteenth century and what Eliza wants to do strikes horror in the heart of her mother who, frankly, is something else! There’s good social commentary on issues like provision (or lack of) for the mentally ill and their cruel and often callous treatment and conditions for the poor and destitute and how they survive on next to nothing. I find the whole thing engrossing and captivating though I do think the ending is a bit abrupt with a slight feeling of being left hanging! Overall, the novel is extremely accomplished, the plot unfolds organically and it’s very hard to put down. It conveys really well just how important Eliza Acton is in the cookery world and how much is owed to her. I applaud the author for creating such a marvellous novel without a huge amount of evidence to go on. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction or those who love food!! With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Simon and Schuster for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    This story brings true figures of Eliza Acton, poet and pioneering cookery writer, and Ann Kirby, her assistant. They both worked on a cookery book which is known as “the greatest British cookbook of all time.” It was an international bestseller and her books had a profound influence on later cookery writers. England, 1837. Eliza, at thirty-six, dreams to publish her poems with an international publisher, but she is asked to write a cookery book instead, more fit for women. A bit appalled by this This story brings true figures of Eliza Acton, poet and pioneering cookery writer, and Ann Kirby, her assistant. They both worked on a cookery book which is known as “the greatest British cookbook of all time.” It was an international bestseller and her books had a profound influence on later cookery writers. England, 1837. Eliza, at thirty-six, dreams to publish her poems with an international publisher, but she is asked to write a cookery book instead, more fit for women. A bit appalled by this suggestion, she returns home humiliated, only to find out that her father has just become a bankrupt. But then, when seeing badly written recipes and sounding unappetizing, after all writing a cookery book might not be a bad idea. And for that she needs a scullery maid. Ann, at seventeen, cares for her parents and dreams about being a cook. A vicar suggests to Ann a position of underhousemaid that might be available with a new family taking up residence in Tonbridge. Eliza with her gift for writing notices that the way the recipes are written is not practical. She decides to list the ingredients separately. And with the help of Ann, they test the same recipe a few times with slight changes: adjusting the cooking times, seasonings, and quantities, to make it most pleasant for the palate. Ann enjoys working under the guidance of Eliza, thriving in the kitchen, and even giving suggestions for mixing new ingredients when asked. Told in alternate voices, this novel brings endearing friendship, the joy of cookery and creativity with food; and with limited options for spinsters, it also means certain independence. The voices of both women are very touching. Eliza is very warm and encouraging, taking Ann under her wings. Ann appreciates Eliza’s warmness and kindness, but at the same time still feels guilty for not taking care of her parents. You can sense how much she tries to stay strong, never revealing her troubled past. When the women prep the food and discuss ingredients with final touches, you can visualize it on a tray with its tasty aroma filling the house. The atmosphere of the cookery evokes your senses of taste and smell. When Eliza savors the six course French dinner, she eats it so slowly devouring its intricacies and complexities to a point that you want to grab that food and taste it yourself. The friendship between two women makes you want to join them in their endeavors. This page-turner filled with divine aromas and tastes is superbly written and thoroughly enjoyable, bringing two inspiring women. P.S. Previously, I read the Joyce Girl by this author, which I also highly recommend. Source: Goodreads Giveaway

  4. 5 out of 5

    The Library Lady

    Last year I read Anne Willan's Women in the Kitchen: Twelve Essential Cookbook Writers Who Defined the Way We Eat, from 1661 to Today, and I know that Eliza Acton was one of the food writers included, but the book left me with no impression about Acton or any of the others for that matter. This book brings her vividly alive. Historical fiction, when done well, can do that. Abbs uses what I believe to be an entirely fictional character, Ann, Eliza's kitchen maid, both to allow us to see Eliza from Last year I read Anne Willan's Women in the Kitchen: Twelve Essential Cookbook Writers Who Defined the Way We Eat, from 1661 to Today, and I know that Eliza Acton was one of the food writers included, but the book left me with no impression about Acton or any of the others for that matter. This book brings her vividly alive. Historical fiction, when done well, can do that. Abbs uses what I believe to be an entirely fictional character, Ann, Eliza's kitchen maid, both to allow us to see Eliza from another viewpoint and to give us, the 21st century reader, an idea of what was like for the poor of the period. (This also allows her a delightful, satisfying end twist for the book.) She also fictionalizes some of Acton's life, because some aspects of it are uncertain. But her writing is certain, and both characters are entirely believable. I only wish some recipes were included!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Val

    I was so excited to get approved for this ARC. A time period that I enjoy (Victorian) with a story that centers on women breaking boundaries and finding meaning? Sign me up! The story is told through two perspectives, Eliza, born into a wealthy family who then loses it all and Anne, born into poverty with an alcoholic father and a Mother who has succumbed to dementia at an early age. The two meet when Eliza and her mother open a boardinghouse where Ann comes to work. Eliza is a natural writer, she I was so excited to get approved for this ARC. A time period that I enjoy (Victorian) with a story that centers on women breaking boundaries and finding meaning? Sign me up! The story is told through two perspectives, Eliza, born into a wealthy family who then loses it all and Anne, born into poverty with an alcoholic father and a Mother who has succumbed to dementia at an early age. The two meet when Eliza and her mother open a boardinghouse where Ann comes to work. Eliza is a natural writer, she has written and published poetry, but when she visits an editor looking for an advance on her next poetry book, she is informed that no one wants to read poetry written by a woman, and that she needs to write either gothic romance or a cookbook. As expected, Eliza is distraught until she realizes that she finds cooking and creating recipes soothing and enjoyable. She finds that she can combine her poetic style and her desire for the recipes to appeal to the average English housewife to be the challenge she was seeking. She is told by her mother that an unmarried woman can not be seen cooking, that should only be done by a hired cook. Eliza, however, is a spitfire and does exactly as she wants. She is consistently bucking up against tradition and her mother to try to forge her own path. The fact that the book is based upon the real Eliza Acton makes the story that much more amazing. Ann has spent the past several years literally tethered to her mother by a rope so that her mentally unstable mother won't embarrass the parish and the minister. Her father only cares about drinking, has lost a leg and can't keep a job. Ann is finally convinced by the minister to let her mother be taken to an asylum which can take care of her and work in a home to make some money for her family. She is told to tell no one about her mother since mental illness is looked upon so terribly. She has such low self esteem as she enters Eliza's world, but quickly blooms under Eliza's tutelage.. Eliza and Ann grow to create a strong friendship. Ann enjoys cooking just as much as Eliza and the two go about perfecting recipes that they serve to boarders and will add to the cookbook. Eliza has the chance to finally be separated from the constricting reach of her mother through marriage. She also has the chance to mend her estranged relationship with her oldest sister. There are many other aspects to this story, but I don't want to give too much information and spoil the surprises. This story had me captivated until the very end. I thought the book was leading me to one conclusion, yet it curved at the last moment. And then it felt like the ending was rushed and so many pieces were left dangling. I like a book that doesn't have a clean and perfect ending, but this one felt like there were just too many unresolved circumstances. This was a 5 star read until the last 25 pages which was a total bummer. I read that this is being turned into a TV series and I'm sure it will be a popular one. The setting and the premise are total wins. Thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow for the advance copy to read and review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    MaryannC. Book Freak

    A rich , sumptuous tale of two women from very different backgrounds who forge a bond of friendship centered around their love of food. Eliza Acton is a headstrong woman who has decided to pursue her heart's desire of becoming a poetess, but her dreams are suddenly thwarted when she is reduced to genteel poverty after her father has caused irreparable financial ruin and abandoned the family. As a means to survive for spinsterish Eliza, she and her mother take in guests looking to stay at their ho A rich , sumptuous tale of two women from very different backgrounds who forge a bond of friendship centered around their love of food. Eliza Acton is a headstrong woman who has decided to pursue her heart's desire of becoming a poetess, but her dreams are suddenly thwarted when she is reduced to genteel poverty after her father has caused irreparable financial ruin and abandoned the family. As a means to survive for spinsterish Eliza, she and her mother take in guests looking to stay at their home. But against her mother's strong opinions decides she will pursue her heart's desire by having her poems published only to be told that she would be better off writing a cookbook. Insulted and upset Eliza comes to realize she actually enjoys preparing dishes infused with heady spices that excite the palate, but Eliza needs help if she is going to cook for paying guests while writing an intricate cookbook. Help comes in the form of Ann, a young poverty stricken girl hired to assist Eliza in the kitchen. But poor Ann has shameful secrets she keeps fiercely hidden, her once vibrant and caring mother is deranged often embarrassing the family by escaping from home naked and crazed while her father loses himself in drink unable to hold a job with one leg. Referred by the parish priest Ann finds herself working alongside Eliza discovering that she too shares a fondness for creating the delectable dishes they both imagine. A lovely, wonderfully written book with descriptions of food I could almost imagine tasting and smelling as I read. Recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    CindySR

    I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Many thanks to the publisher William Morrow for this gift. This historical novel checks many of the boxes for me. Characters to care about, like poor Ann and her drunken, one legged Pa, and lunatic Mam. Miss Eliza and her independent nature, fighting against convention and her overbearing mother. Facts mixed with conjecture add the spicy kick to the story. Recommended to all who look for historical fiction about strong women. I don't like to cook, so when I I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Many thanks to the publisher William Morrow for this gift. This historical novel checks many of the boxes for me. Characters to care about, like poor Ann and her drunken, one legged Pa, and lunatic Mam. Miss Eliza and her independent nature, fighting against convention and her overbearing mother. Facts mixed with conjecture add the spicy kick to the story. Recommended to all who look for historical fiction about strong women. I don't like to cook, so when I do follow a recipe I kind of wing it instead of measuring and weighing. I fear Eliza and Ann would not approve since we have them to thank for the more precise and easily followed recipes we have today. I'm not fond of poetry either, but since Eliza Acton was also a poet readers might appreciate the many poetic references which are also listed in the back of the book (along with a recommended reading list and a few recipes from Eliza's book). I give the book 3.5 stars, rounded down from 4 for the following reasons: I didn't like the completely unrecognizable Ann that appeared in the first chapter and the last chapter. I didn't like that too much time was spent on a dirty old man who enjoyed exposing himself. One encounter would have sufficed! There were entirely too many words that were italicized throughout the book. I suppose it is done for emphasis, but in my opinion, excessive. No sexual encounters and no curse words but my clean reading friends might not appreciate the above mentioned Victorian flasher, LOL!

  8. 5 out of 5

    smalltownbookmom

    Based on the real life of Eliza Acton, a British poetess who teamed up with a kitchen maid to write one of the foremost cookery books in England. This is a story of female friendship, women's role in Victorian society and the differences between the classes. Told in alternating perspectives from Eliza and her maid, Ann Kirby, we get to know what life was like for each of these women. Ann's story in particular is one of hardship as she is forced to work to help support her disabled father and her Based on the real life of Eliza Acton, a British poetess who teamed up with a kitchen maid to write one of the foremost cookery books in England. This is a story of female friendship, women's role in Victorian society and the differences between the classes. Told in alternating perspectives from Eliza and her maid, Ann Kirby, we get to know what life was like for each of these women. Ann's story in particular is one of hardship as she is forced to work to help support her disabled father and her mentally ill mother who has been institutionalized. Highly recommended for fans of upstairs/downstairs stories, Downton Abbey, The kitchen front or Julie and Julia. I loved learning about Eliza's multi-faceted life and the challenges she faced trying to publish her work as a woman and the passion she found for cooking and creating recipes that would be more practical for the average cook. Much thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my ALC!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    This is a wonderful book, filled with interesting characters and a vibrant setting/time. MISS ELIZA’S ENGLISH KITCHEN is a peek into a time when most women of a certain class never set foot in their own kitchens. Nor were women considered capable of good cooking; it was a preserve populated entirely by men. Author Annabel Abbs has taken a famous cookbook and a few known facts about the author and spun a great tale. The protagonist confronts all manner of social obstacles to become a food writer This is a wonderful book, filled with interesting characters and a vibrant setting/time. MISS ELIZA’S ENGLISH KITCHEN is a peek into a time when most women of a certain class never set foot in their own kitchens. Nor were women considered capable of good cooking; it was a preserve populated entirely by men. Author Annabel Abbs has taken a famous cookbook and a few known facts about the author and spun a great tale. The protagonist confronts all manner of social obstacles to become a food writer and published author. Her journey is entertaining and lively and the book itself is thoroughly engrossing. I read it straight through and enjoyed every minute. I received my copy from the publishers through NetGalley.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Artemiz

    The Language of Food has two voices telling the story of a first cookbook, that was constructed the way we are used to seeing it nowadays. Eliza Acton (a lady from a middle class, who had aspiration to be a poetess, but her family's circumstances give her opportunity to do something new and unheard of for young unmarried lady) and Ann Kirby (a young girl, from impoverished family, who dreams to be a cook, but her home situation does not give her lot of hope to climb out of her class). About Eliz The Language of Food has two voices telling the story of a first cookbook, that was constructed the way we are used to seeing it nowadays. Eliza Acton (a lady from a middle class, who had aspiration to be a poetess, but her family's circumstances give her opportunity to do something new and unheard of for young unmarried lady) and Ann Kirby (a young girl, from impoverished family, who dreams to be a cook, but her home situation does not give her lot of hope to climb out of her class). About Eliza there is historical facts to rely on but Ann is just mentioned in some books, so the author of this book has let her fantasy fly and has given them both backstories that may or may not be true and she has made the story politically correct for modern readers, which makes some parts of it quite unbelievable. The idea behind this story is pretty good, but with the modern twists and the controversial characteristic features of the protagonists, there were too many things that irked me. And it’s the first book about food that did not urge me to eat or to try some new recipes. True, there were some recipes that I wanted to see how they are written down nowadays (with pictures and all), and some recipes reminded me of my first mouthful of that particular food, but I did not want to eat it again or make it. After reading the synopsis I did not expect to read a Victorian family drama with some historical motifs and food description, I was expecting more about the recipes and about food. It was not my book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is a beautiful and stunning historical fiction that I truly treasured from beginning to end. This book introduces the reader to the wonderfully intricate culinary world that took place in Victorian England. The options, the societal differences, the demands, the effort, the recipes, the food preferences, and the insane work involved to create the everyday meals and the exquisite delicacies and delights were depicted in this book. The rich descriptions of the m The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is a beautiful and stunning historical fiction that I truly treasured from beginning to end. This book introduces the reader to the wonderfully intricate culinary world that took place in Victorian England. The options, the societal differences, the demands, the effort, the recipes, the food preferences, and the insane work involved to create the everyday meals and the exquisite delicacies and delights were depicted in this book. The rich descriptions of the main characters through alternating viewpoints of Eliza and Ann really gave the reader the advantage of seeing the barriers, adversities, experiences, and the challenging landscapes that women of different social classes experienced in the mid-nineteenth century. It was not easy to overcome one’s gender and social place no matter what. It was truly a pleasure to see these women form a bond, a friendship (through their own respective and associated challenges), and develop their respective crafts and fight against the barriers that were set forth during this time. The complexities of each woman, the plot, and the surprises really made for a unique, beautiful, and memorable story. And to find that the written character of Eliza Acton is based on the real culinary and writing expert, made it all the more enjoyable. (Yes, it is correct in that I had not heard of her until this book…however I am rectifying that as we speak!) I love when I can be entertained, inspired, and informed all from one fabulous historical fiction novel. I highly recommend! 5/5 stars Thank you NG and Simon & Schuster UK for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alexis Toberman

    I won this book in a goodreads giveaway! Annabel Abbs has written this marvelous novel based off of Eliza Acton, and her assistant Ann Kirby, who produced the famous cookery book Modern Cookery. Eliza brings poems she has been writing for the past 10 years to Messrs. Longman & Co., Publisher and Book Seller, with full intentions of finally getting them published. She instead is told they are in no need of poetry, but of a cookery book. Reluctant, at first, she sets off to attempt this task! Eliza I won this book in a goodreads giveaway! Annabel Abbs has written this marvelous novel based off of Eliza Acton, and her assistant Ann Kirby, who produced the famous cookery book Modern Cookery. Eliza brings poems she has been writing for the past 10 years to Messrs. Longman & Co., Publisher and Book Seller, with full intentions of finally getting them published. She instead is told they are in no need of poetry, but of a cookery book. Reluctant, at first, she sets off to attempt this task! Eliza is not the type of woman to do things just to do them, she likes to do them perfectly. At this time it was not common to see women of Elizas class in the kitchen, but she did not care. She had many opportunities to choose a different lifestyle for herself, but in the end she did what she truly wanted to do which I find very admirable! This story is about more than just food and recipes, it also depicts the wonderful friendship of Eliza and Ann. This book was very well written, from the very first page I was intrigued. I never wanted to put it down. I’m looking forward to what this author puts out next!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Melissa (Nissa_the.bookworm)

    Thank you to the publishers at William Morrow and Custom House and Netgalley for this e-ARC of Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen! This was such a delightful story about two women from extremely different backgrounds who come together to create a world famous cookery book. Miss Eliza is an unmarried woman at 36 still living with her wealthy family. She enjoys writing poetry and would rather focus on making something out of her name than spend her days trying to find a suitor. Ann Kirby, on the other ha Thank you to the publishers at William Morrow and Custom House and Netgalley for this e-ARC of Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen! This was such a delightful story about two women from extremely different backgrounds who come together to create a world famous cookery book. Miss Eliza is an unmarried woman at 36 still living with her wealthy family. She enjoys writing poetry and would rather focus on making something out of her name than spend her days trying to find a suitor. Ann Kirby, on the other hand, is a girl of 17 from a pauper family. Her mother has lost her mind, her one legged father drinks instead of trying to find work, and her only surviving sibling has gone away to London to work in a master kitchen at a gentlemen’s club. These women end up meeting in the unlikeliest of ways and forming a friendship that others wouldn’t understand. As they work together on their book of recipes, we see them use their imaginations to the fullest while also letting their creativity flow over into their unique dishes. I loved every bit of this story. It felt so raw and real, and seeing as how it’s based on two real women, I like how they were made into people I could imagine knowing and being friends with once upon a time. I also enjoyed the recipes and poetry intermingled within the plot. I oftentimes felt so hungry and jealous of the delicious food they were creating in their kitchen! I highly recommend this story to people who love food, Victorian England, and historical fiction. Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen releases October 26th!

  14. 5 out of 5

    histeriker

    This book is quite interesting in its structure and characters. We follow the situation of two very different women, who get conncted through food and cooking. Each chapter is connected to a recipe and tolf from the perspective of one of the women. Even though they are different and grew up in diffrenet circumstances they show the life of 19th century's women quite well. I liked the way they act and try to overcome the circumstances, but it was very important that it was believable. And that is This book is quite interesting in its structure and characters. We follow the situation of two very different women, who get conncted through food and cooking. Each chapter is connected to a recipe and tolf from the perspective of one of the women. Even though they are different and grew up in diffrenet circumstances they show the life of 19th century's women quite well. I liked the way they act and try to overcome the circumstances, but it was very important that it was believable. And that is what the author managed. They are maybe not the typical women of ther time, but their actions and lives are shown the way that you can really imagine it. I liked both the characters and can highly recommend the book!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I enjoyed this book. The main characters were very likable, both struggling with their individual challenges/tragedies.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    Reading this was as satisfying as watching a good cooking show because it had me imagining the flavor of all the delicious sounding food it described. Also, the historical characters Eliza Acton, author of the first modern English cookery book (cookbook to us in the US), and her assistant Ann Kirby were fascinating to read about. Their story explored the friendship between two women from very different backgrounds working together with a common goal. This was the kind of historical fiction that Reading this was as satisfying as watching a good cooking show because it had me imagining the flavor of all the delicious sounding food it described. Also, the historical characters Eliza Acton, author of the first modern English cookery book (cookbook to us in the US), and her assistant Ann Kirby were fascinating to read about. Their story explored the friendship between two women from very different backgrounds working together with a common goal. This was the kind of historical fiction that immerses you in the period it portrays and leaves you with an appreciation for the historical figures whose influence is still felt in the world of today. It ended with sample recipes and an afterward with notes about the setting and events along with several short biographies of the supporting characters. My thanks to the publisher and Goodreads Giveaways for an advance copy to review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Natasha

    Deliciously detailed and utterly thought-provoking, The Language Of Food explores a fictional account of the life of Eliza Action;one of the world’s most successful cookery writers ,who revolutionised cooking and cookbooks around the world. It’s set in 19th C England, and told from the alternating Voices of Eliza and her assistant,Ann Kirby. When Poetess,Eliza Acton takes her manuscript of poems to a publisher she’s told “poetry is not the business of a lady.” Instead, they want her to write a co Deliciously detailed and utterly thought-provoking, The Language Of Food explores a fictional account of the life of Eliza Action;one of the world’s most successful cookery writers ,who revolutionised cooking and cookbooks around the world. It’s set in 19th C England, and told from the alternating Voices of Eliza and her assistant,Ann Kirby. When Poetess,Eliza Acton takes her manuscript of poems to a publisher she’s told “poetry is not the business of a lady.” Instead, they want her to write a cookbook—for that is all they believe readers expect from a woman. Eliza leaves utterly appalled. but, when her father flees the country due to bankruptcy,she has no choice but to consider the proposal. Never having cooked before in her life,Eliza is determined to learn and in search of an assistant to help her—she hires seventeen year old Ann Kirby, the impoverished daughter of a disabled war veteran father and a mother with dementia. Over the course of ten years, Eliza and Ann developed an unusual friendship that managed to transcend social classes and divides— breaking the mould for traditional cookbooks and cookery writing forever. I thought this was a powerfully heartfelt and inspiring story that I enjoyed alot. The sumptuously detailed descriptions were spectacular and the dual narrative in poverty stricken Ann and well to do Eliza was absolutely perfect—I always enjoy when historical fiction paints a broader picture of life that isn’t portrayed entirely through rose tinted, Jane Austen-esque glasses. I loved the atmospheric setting and the attention to detail in both the setting, the characters and even the food descriptions, which I thought was just brilliant—you can see the time and effort that went into researching Eliza, her culinary peers and the time period in general. I really loved how well written the characters were,they certainly felt true to life, Ann and Eliza especially. Ann’s experiences were pretty heartbreaking especially in terms of her mother and discovering the asylum was real (and knowing people actually had to experience it) was genuinely horrifying. Eliza’s experiences, though different from Ann’s were no easier in hardship and I found her just as endearing. It’s sad to think how incredible a change Eliza made to the processes of cookery in England only for her to have faded into obscurity—and made even sadder still knowing many of her recipes were plagiarised, both during her lifetime and after her death (the most notable and infamous plagiarist being Mrs.Beeton.) Throughout the book Annabel Abbs also expertly tackles some fairly important topics of the era such as mental health, the limited lives of women and the societal attitudes to class and race (as well as the wealth disparity between the upper and working classes) some of which are still extremely relevant today! Overall, this was an incredible historical novel that dusts off the legacy of Eliza Acton for a whole new generation—its heartfelt and empowering and I absolutely loved it! Thanks to Simon&Schuster UK and NetGalley for the ARC.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kymm

    I love Goodreads giveaways! I browse the giveaway books once a month and enter to win those that I find interesting, but sometimes there's a book that I really want to win. Miss Eliza's English Kitchen: A Novel of Victorian Cookery and Friendship by Annabel Abbs was one of those I kept my fingers crossed for and I got it! Thank you Goodreads and Ms. Abbs! Historical Fiction is my thing and whenever I read a book from the 18th or 19th century I'm the one who is fascinated with the staff downstair I love Goodreads giveaways! I browse the giveaway books once a month and enter to win those that I find interesting, but sometimes there's a book that I really want to win. Miss Eliza's English Kitchen: A Novel of Victorian Cookery and Friendship by Annabel Abbs was one of those I kept my fingers crossed for and I got it! Thank you Goodreads and Ms. Abbs! Historical Fiction is my thing and whenever I read a book from the 18th or 19th century I'm the one who is fascinated with the staff downstairs. They're a breed of their own and without them the families upstairs, the rich, the betters or whatever you want to call them would be lost. In this book I got to grab a seat in the kitchen and watch how the meals are all put together, listen to what they're talking about behind the bosses backs and imagine the glorious tastes of the food they made. I don't enjoy cooking much, it was always a chore to me with a full time job and kids, but I do admire those who do not only enjoy it but are good at it and make amazing dishes. I do appreciate the need for a well written recipe when I need one and after reading Miss Eliza's English Kitchen I know who to thank for all those party saving recipes I rely on to save the day. In 1837 England Eliza Acton dreams of becoming a poet and has written a book's worth of poems she's going to present to a publisher, but after meeting with him and learning he wants nothing to do with her book of poems she's devastated. Although he is willing to give her a shot if she'll write a cookery book. The problem with this is Eliza doesn't cook and knows nothing about recipes. After looking up previous cookery books and seeing what they're all about she believes she can do better and begins teaching herself to cook. Eliza wants to take the mystery out of cooking and bring simple, healthy food back to English kitchens. Of course she'll need some help to carry out her mission to put together this book, so when Ann Kirby shows up to work in the house Eliza is quick to put her to work in her kitchen. Impoverished seventeen year old Ann has never worked as a domestic before, but as her father's health declines due to his war injury and drinking problem and her mother is sinking deeper into insanity she needs to make money to help them. Working with Eliza in the kitchen is a dream come true, she's always wanted to be a "plain" cook. However, once she begins assisting Eliza she notices she is not your normal cook. She's especially helpful and kind to Ann offering to help in any way she can. Eliza and Ann become true partners in the quest to write the perfect cookery book with Eliza doing the cooking and writing and Ann doing the gathering, chopping and mixing of all ingredients. They are the perfect team! This is such a wonderful book and it's all true, or the main ideas of it are anyway. I'll never look at a cookbook or recipe the same again. It isn't often I read a book that's a pure delight to read, this one was just that. Learning that something as simple as the list of ingredients presented in a recipe is there thanks to Ms. Acton and having accurate measurements listed is again her doing is so cool. Who would have thought something we all use without really thinking about them has such an interesting history? That and the friendship that developed between Eliza and Ann. Two completely different sorts of women, who've come from very different backgrounds came together for a common cause and grew to become treasured friends and confidants. Secrets will be uncovered, histories will be shared and the women will do all they can to make sure food is not just something you eat, but something to be shared, enjoyed and cherished with others. Even though I'm not a willing cook and only do so when I have to, after finishing this book I had the sudden urge to grab my favorite cookbook and whip something up! I bet you will too! Happy Reading!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    This would have to be one of the best books I have read lately. I may be biased as I love history and learning about the ways of life in the past but even more so I love food, love cooking and love cookbooks and recipes. So this book really was right up my alley. And what a wonderful book it is. Based on the real life of Eliza Acton it follows her story to follow her dreams and become a writer. Not quite the writer she had planned as she really wanted to be a writer of poetry (which she was to a This would have to be one of the best books I have read lately. I may be biased as I love history and learning about the ways of life in the past but even more so I love food, love cooking and love cookbooks and recipes. So this book really was right up my alley. And what a wonderful book it is. Based on the real life of Eliza Acton it follows her story to follow her dreams and become a writer. Not quite the writer she had planned as she really wanted to be a writer of poetry (which she was to a point). She was asked to write a cookbook and so the fun began, buying and reading all manner of cookbooks of the time, hiring an assistant or kitchen hand (being Ann Kirby) and testing, tasting and writing everything that she could so that she could write the best recipes and get women back in the kitchen. Of course in the times when Eliza Acton was doing this (early - mid 1800's) women of means did not step foot in the kitchen, did not have dreams of fancy (only dreams of marriage and babies) and did not cook! But this became a passion for Eliza and Ann and so the friendship grew as did their personalities. The story was told in the voice of both Eliza and Ann so we did learn of their lives (past and present), their hardships and heartaches, the differences in their lives and their love of food. Very well written, poetic in its own right and a book I just didn't want to end. I loved it! The Language of Food Annabel Abbs Simon & Schuster Publishing

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    This was about a 3.5 for me, rounded up to 4 stars. When my ARC via Goodreads giveaways arrived, I devoured Miss Eliza's English Kitchen in just a few days (sorry, food metaphors are probably a little too obvious for this book, but hard to resist). The subtitle exactly delivers what it promises--sumptuous descriptions of food (both the eating and cooking), food metaphors flavoring the prose, and the tensions and rewards of a friendship developed between the destitute, but literate and with a kna This was about a 3.5 for me, rounded up to 4 stars. When my ARC via Goodreads giveaways arrived, I devoured Miss Eliza's English Kitchen in just a few days (sorry, food metaphors are probably a little too obvious for this book, but hard to resist). The subtitle exactly delivers what it promises--sumptuous descriptions of food (both the eating and cooking), food metaphors flavoring the prose, and the tensions and rewards of a friendship developed between the destitute, but literate and with a knack for cooking, Ann Kirby; and fallen-on-hard-times and ambitious Eliza Acton, who, unmarried at 36, has just begun to run a resort-town boarding house with her mother. I enjoyed the perspective-switching between Ann and Eliza, which helped to give a fuller picture of Victorian England. Fittingly, I suppose, given the real Eliza Acton's developed interest in the poor, Ann's story explores the implications of abject rural poverty, while Eliza's explores what it meant to be a middle class woman, unmarried in early middle age, but with ambition beyond societally expected marriage. (Am I just calling myself almost middle aged?? Thus "early.") Several plot devices felt kind of like they were there for shock value in an otherwise rather sedate plot and premise. While it makes sense to have only highlighted boarders that have significance to the plot, the Actons' very first guests are a sexual predator of female servants and his embittered wife. While I can reassure other readers that there is no rape, Ann is subjected to (view spoiler)[groping and exposure of male genitals (hide spoiler)] . (If they had had perfectly decent guests as their first boarders, these particular guests would have felt a bit more like what the author was probably intending--to highlight the reality of sexual harassment/assault that women and girls face.) Only two other boarders are ever mentioned staying at their house, also with notable significance to the plot, but it left me wondering how on earth they made enough money to live comfortably and keep testing so many recipes with expensive ingredients. The second shock-value-y piece I wasn't sure what to think of was the subplot of Ann's mentally ill mother, who ends up getting sent to England's first insane asylum. While we don't see what goes on inside the asylum, with historical hindsight we know poor Ann is terribly naive in how her mother is being treated. But I kind of wonder whether Ann really has to come from such an abjectly awful/shameful situation for her to be "interesting" as a character. It certainly gives her motivations as well as barriers, and a bombshell kind of secret (in Victorian standards) to mirror Eliza's own secret. Anyway. It does work well for the plot, and shows another side of Victorian England besides cookery and expectations for women. It certainly was refreshing to read a story with a strong female character (Eliza) with no aspirations for romance, marriage, or children. And lovely to watch Ann becoming confident and empowered. Still, there were things about Eliza's character I didn't like (I'm fine with not completely liking a character)--mainly, how she seems to start fetishizing the poor once she notices poverty and lights afire to do something about it through her writing. Luckily, Ann doesn't seem to have patience for this either. (Not that I'm saying there's inherently something wrong with fighting poverty; Eliza just goes about it in a rather self-righteous way.) On a different note, I enjoyed the slow unfolding of Eliza's backstory, which--and I don't think it was meant to be too much of a mystery--was easy to guess at. I also appreciated that the book addressed bodily things like female sweat, periods, and sexual desire. They fit with the theme of the novel, the bodily experience of food, but they also made the characters more relatable to me as a female reader. (I doubt it's just me, but as a female reader I've often wondered "What do they do about their periods?" So, A+ to Annabel Abbs for acknowledging that.) A pet-peeve of mine, and probably for some others--the very first paragraph has a series of incomplete sentences. I was disappointed with so early of a turn-off, but once I got going, the writing style usually fell unnoticed (a good thing to me), except when the food descriptions got going, which I then wanted to savor. The food was definitely the highlight. Altogether, as someone who likes to cook and eat good food, I enjoyed the novel with relish.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    5 ⭐️#Historical Fiction . #Food memoir This is a must read for historical fiction fans who love to cook and follow recipes . Its based on the true story of Eliza Acton who spent ten years writing her cookery book for the every day kitchen in Victorian England . The story is told in dual narrative and it be begins in England 1837 .We meet Eliza Acton an inspiring Poet who fails to secure the publication of her poems. Her work was ridiculed and tossed aside. "Poetry is not the business of a lady" Th 5 ⭐️#Historical Fiction . #Food memoir This is a must read for historical fiction fans who love to cook and follow recipes . Its based on the true story of Eliza Acton who spent ten years writing her cookery book for the every day kitchen in Victorian England . The story is told in dual narrative and it be begins in England 1837 .We meet Eliza Acton an inspiring Poet who fails to secure the publication of her poems. Her work was ridiculed and tossed aside. "Poetry is not the business of a lady" The mere suggestion of her writing a cookery book fills her with rage as she feels this is below her capabilities . When her family circumstances suddenly change she moves house with her mother to avoid social humiliation and protect her family name. She will need to find a way to contribute financially to her family whilst keeping her dream of becoming a recognised female author. Perhaps a recipe can be a well written as her poetry. Seventeen year old Ann Kirby finds herself working alongside Elzia as a scullery maid . All she ever wanted was to cook. The burden of looking after her war crippled father and a mother who is suffering with a mental illness are a constant worry for her. She cannot divulge her family situation in case she loses her cherished positon. Their unusual friendship over the course of ten years results with a cookbook that paved the way for a more user friendly approach to cooking. Today Acton is recognised as one of the greatest cookery writers of her time. This is a must read page turner about two inspiring women who are brave and endearing in their endeavours. . The author expertly takes us back in time to experience the aromas of beautifully crafted recipes some of which are cited at the end of this gorgeous book. This is the perfect book club choice and an even better gift to someone special in your life who is a creative foodie and enjoys taking a step back to a begone era .I’ll definitely preorder a hard copy of this one ! Who wouldn't want this beautiful book in their home. Thank you to Netgallery and Simon and Schuster UK for this wonderful Arc .

  22. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review. The Victorian era is quite likely my favorite era to read about, so I instantly was drawn to this based on the description alone. Other authors have painted an overly rosy, "pull them up by their bootstraps, sheer will" portrait of life in a Victorian kitchen, but that really isn't the case. An employee could be made or broken based on the work they did at something as critical as potato peeli Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review. The Victorian era is quite likely my favorite era to read about, so I instantly was drawn to this based on the description alone. Other authors have painted an overly rosy, "pull them up by their bootstraps, sheer will" portrait of life in a Victorian kitchen, but that really isn't the case. An employee could be made or broken based on the work they did at something as critical as potato peeling. This book-no pun intended-peels back the curtain and shows the amount of work, time, effort and life that made a Victorian kitchen operate. This story is incredible! I've been familiar with Mrs. Beeton (and you had to have a "Mrs." before your name even if you weren't married!) but this was a new lens to look through. A dedicated woman determined to forge her own path, Eliza is a wonderful character. Determined to save her family and make something impactful, she enlists the help (and ultimately friendship) of Ann. This was a wonderful read, and I'm hesitant to write too much for fear of giving anything away. Well written, crafted and plotted, this is a book to be enjoyed and savored.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cathy Garlesky

    I am a baker at heart. I loved the story, the characters and how reading a recipe is like poetry. I enjoyed this book and would recommend to others that love history, cooking, baking and friendships.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Celia Morse

    Eliza Acton wrote what is considered to be the first modern English cookbook, and this novel imagines the circumstances of the process of writing the book. Eliza Acton was originally a poet and the novel opens with her visit to the British publisher, Longman's, hoping to sell a new book of verse. Her poetry is rejected but the publisher suggests she write a cookery book instead. At first she scoffs, but the idea has captured her attention and she begins to experiment with foods, herbs, and spice Eliza Acton wrote what is considered to be the first modern English cookbook, and this novel imagines the circumstances of the process of writing the book. Eliza Acton was originally a poet and the novel opens with her visit to the British publisher, Longman's, hoping to sell a new book of verse. Her poetry is rejected but the publisher suggests she write a cookery book instead. At first she scoffs, but the idea has captured her attention and she begins to experiment with foods, herbs, and spices. The chapters alternate between Eliza and her kitchen maid Ann Kirby, and each develops a recipe and advances the plot as we learn Eliza's closely guarded secrets and the story of Ann's desperately poor family. The descriptions of the food are beautiful and border on poetry and contrast sharply with the struggles in the women's lives. I thoroughly enjoyed this highly original novel. Eliza Acton's cookbook remains a strong influence on modern chefs and has returned to print 150 years after its original publication.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rafael Sifuentes

    this was really good, i enjoyed it ann deserved better tho

  26. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    More like 3.5. I really wanted to love this book about how Eliza Acton and her assistant, Ann Kirby, revolutionized cookbook writing, recipe formatting, and recipe development in the early 1800s. Perhaps it was my mood, perhaps it was the dual-perspective approach -- in any case, I found this to be only okay. The examination of how women's opportunities were limited and very much tied in to their family's needs and the descriptions of the dishes, scents, and flavors held my attention. Regardless, More like 3.5. I really wanted to love this book about how Eliza Acton and her assistant, Ann Kirby, revolutionized cookbook writing, recipe formatting, and recipe development in the early 1800s. Perhaps it was my mood, perhaps it was the dual-perspective approach -- in any case, I found this to be only okay. The examination of how women's opportunities were limited and very much tied in to their family's needs and the descriptions of the dishes, scents, and flavors held my attention. Regardless, I was not totally wowed by the book, and despite my interest in cookbooks, food history, and how Acton helped make cooking accessible to the everyday woman trying to run her household. The audiobook performances by Ell Potter and Bianca Amato were fine and blended well. Each narrator captured her character's issues and feelings.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jan Berry

    This was a GoodReads Giveaway book. I enjoyed it and especially liked the historical connection to the real Miss Eliza. This is a fictionalized account of how Eliza Acton, a true-life spinster in 1835 England, is encouraged to write a cookery book rather than a book of poetry (her passion). After seeing the dearth of elegance and fine language in existing cookbooks, she embarks on a 10-year-long project of creating what came to be a groundbreaking book. She was the first to list ingredients with This was a GoodReads Giveaway book. I enjoyed it and especially liked the historical connection to the real Miss Eliza. This is a fictionalized account of how Eliza Acton, a true-life spinster in 1835 England, is encouraged to write a cookery book rather than a book of poetry (her passion). After seeing the dearth of elegance and fine language in existing cookbooks, she embarks on a 10-year-long project of creating what came to be a groundbreaking book. She was the first to list ingredients with precise measurements as well as cooking temperatures and times. The author not only elegantly describes the delicious foods that Eliza creates, but she also spins the tale of a friendship between Eliza and her scullery maid who became her right hand in creating and recording these "receipts" as they were called then.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    Funnily enough, I struggled to get into this one which is a tad surprising given the reviews. This wasn't a bad book, it just didn't really hold my attention, the story was a bit drib drab between Eliza the poet and the housemaid Ann who hasn't really read much poetry and is someone I would have considered not to be that well read considering her position, despite being able to read and write, I don't really think that equates to donning yourself as a poet. This book tends to be more of a histor Funnily enough, I struggled to get into this one which is a tad surprising given the reviews. This wasn't a bad book, it just didn't really hold my attention, the story was a bit drib drab between Eliza the poet and the housemaid Ann who hasn't really read much poetry and is someone I would have considered not to be that well read considering her position, despite being able to read and write, I don't really think that equates to donning yourself as a poet. This book tends to be more of a historical fictional drama but it always seemed like a draft copy like loose ends need to be tied up. The parts of the book about the food were interesting but that's all for me folks! Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in return for my review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Abby Johnson

    I loved this novel based on a real English lady who wrote the first modern English language cookbook. Told from alternating viewpoints between the lady Eliza Acton and her kitchen maid who helped her with the recipes, this is a story about a strong friendship, as well as about cookery. I think viewers of British Bake Off and other sweet British cooking shows will enjoy this story.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lady Di

    Thank you to William Morrow for an advanced copy of this book. 4.5 rounded up. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. A lovely, wonderfully written book with descriptions of food and recipes I could almost imagine tasting and smelling as I read. Descriptive insights into the plight of impoverished characters that resulted in finding myself rooting for Anne.

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