There are few books around which really grab me and touch me so much that I know I won't forget them for a long time. Kate Jacobs' debut novel "The Friday Night Knitting Club" was one such novel, and I loved it so much that I went out and bought my own copy after getting a copy in a swap. So when I saw on Amazon and The Bookbag that she was releasing a new novel entitled Comfort Food, I knew I wanted it! Luckily, I managed to get hold of a proof copy 2 months before its publication date in July, so I've had the pleasure of reading it already!
Comfort Food follows Gus Simpson, a television cook who has her own show 'Cooking with Gusto' on the Cooking Channel. Life is going well for her, she has a successful career, 2 lovely daughters, a huge house and a fantastic best friend. But Gus is turning 50, and she's not happy about it... not to mention the fact her TV show is being shaken up and the latest Spanish starlet to grace America has been invited to guest-present! How will Gus manage with her show being changed? And will it save her career?
As in her previous novel, Jacobs dove straight into the story with this boo, quickly introducing us to Gus and her life. This works well for me, as I like to get to know the characters before the book gets too far in, otherwise I get a little put off! Gus is instantly likeable, a successful cook (but NOT a chef!) who loves teaching her cooking skills to everyone, a good mother to her volatile twenty-something daughters and a great best friend to Hannah. She's the kind of woman everyone wants to have as a friend actually! She's written in a really friendly way throughout the book, and the further I got through the book, the more I liked her! Not at any point did I dislike her, I just wanted everything to go right for her because she was so nice, even to the awful Carmen!
Carmen is the young Spanish woman desperate to make her name as a cook in America, and manages to get co-presenter spot on Gus' revamped show. She is the antithesis of Gus - fiery, bad tempered and generally unlikeable. There were flashes of niceness in her character, but she was definitely the hate character of the book! Alongside her is Oliver, Gus and Carmen's cooking assistant, a 40-something man who loves food and stopped a well-paid job in the city to pursue his love of food, and a wonderful character throughout the book.
Aimee and Sabrina are Gus' daughters and both pretty dire throughout the boo...you wonder at points if they are actually related to Gus at all! Jacobs writes the family relationship between the mother and daughters so well, you believe every tiff, every hug and every phone call between them, and it really makes for touching reading at points! And finally is Hannah, the most mysterious character in the book. She's a bit of a recluse, with the reason not made clear for a long time, but I enjoyed the slight mystery of her throughout. She worked well with Gus and was quite sweet.
Written in the third person, the book told the story at a fantastic pace, beginning in 2006, and ending up at the end of the book in 2008. It didn't drag on, in fact it felt perfect to me, and was just a complete pleasure to read. Each of the characters was covered so well that you had a real empathy with them, and felt like you knew them, so you just wanted to keep reading to find out how it was all working out. Jacobs' had this knack of writing about people in her first book, and she really hasn't dsappointed with this one, taking a completely different avenue and turning it into superb novel.
For me, this book has it all inside. It has great, likeable characters who read well, are believable and incredibly well written, a fantastic plot which moves along at a readable pace and which keeps you reading for more, and most importantly, a lead character who is just fantastic, and who makes the book complete. Jacobs has really done a fantastic job this time. It doesn't quite make the grade of her debut (simply because of its stunning ending!) but believe me, it's as close as it could get! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and was sad when I turned the final page. I really hope my review encourages you to pick up this book because it is a fantastic novel of human relationships at their best and worst, and most importantly just afantastic story. I loved every word.
ISBN: 978-0340922200. Published by Hodder Paperback, and due for release on 26th June 2008. RRP is £6.89 although you can pre-order it now on Amazon for £4.89. 428 pages.
Thank you for reading!
The ingredients: Why can't Gus find time to organise her own birthday party? Because shes too busy sorting out the problems of her friends and family; it seems everyone is facing a career challenge or a romantic dilemma.The recipe: A series of Sunday suppers (televised, of course) that show real people making real food. And over delicious dishes, relaxed chat and a few bottles of wine, her guests find they have nourished their souls as well as tempting their tastebuds.Comfort food. A celebration of life itself.