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The Monday Night Cooking School is the first novel written by American writer Erica Bauermeister and it really is a delicious read in every sense. The novel tells of eight very diverse people who attend a cooking class once a month at Lillian's restaurant. Each has a different reason for being there and each has his or her own story to tell. However, over the months that the course is run, they start to bond through the learning experience and their love of food. It's not the sort of novel where much happens but if you are interested in people and you love food, I am sure you will enjoy this book. Having said that though, I don't think it is a book that should be read if you are trying to diet because you can virtually smell the food as you turn the pages!
The book is divided up into sections with each one focusing on a different character. There's Claire, a harassed young mother; Tom, a tragically young widower; Isabelle, who is becoming increasingly forgetful as she ages and Carl and Helen, who are trying to put huge difficulties in their marriage behind them. Chloe, Ian and Antonia also have their own difficulties to overcome. Through each chapter, the reader learns more about the characters and comes to understand what has brought them to the cooking school. I thought that the characterisation was excellent. There was much attention to detail and the telling of small anecdotes that really made each one seem to come alive as I was reading.
As the novel unfolds it is wonderful to read how each character starts to trust his or her own instincts and how they seem to be able to take the lessons learned in the kitchen and apply them to lessons in their own lives. As they begin to connect with the food they are preparing, they also connect with each other. This means that by the end of the book they have become friends and you feel that their lives will be richer as a consequence.
You need to look on this book as a beautifully unhurried read with the opportunity to savour each and every page - just like you would want to savour every delicious dish that is prepared by the class. At one point in the book, Lillian teaches her class to make a sponge cake. She stresses that this requires patience and that one must resist the temptation to go faster. A cake requires a delicate balance and if you get the ingredients right, the results will be stunning. The same thoughts could be applied to the reading of this book. It should not be rushed and the reader should take time to appreciate the combination of characters and stories.
This book is very moving in places but there is also an underlying subtle humour. I loved the descriptions of some of the food and Lillian's quirky instructions as to how the dishes should be prepared. Best of all for me though, were the numerous analogies made between food and real life. It is a thought provoking and enjoyable read.
The book is currently available on Amazon for £5.99.
This review previously appeared under my name ay www.thebookbag.co.uk