I am delighted to get the chance to share my review today for Language of Food by Annabel Abbs. This is an absolutely fabulous historical fiction book that I just fell in love with.
My huge thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for my spot on the Blog Tour and for organising my gorgeous paperback copy of this book from the publisher Simon & Schuster.
Eliza Acton is a poet who’s never boiled an egg.
But she’s about to break the mould of traditional cookbooks
And change the course of cookery writing forever.
England 1835. Eliza Acton is a poet who dreams of seeing her words in print. But when she takes a new
manuscript to a publisher, she’s told that ‘poetry is not the business of a lady.’ Instead, she’s asked to
write a cookery book.
Eliza is horrified but her financial situation leaves her no choice. Although she’s never cooked before, she
is determined to learn and to discover, if she can, the poetry in recipe writing. To assist her, she hires
seventeen-year-old Ann Kirby, the daughter of local paupers. Over the next ten years, Eliza and Ann
change the course of cookery writing forever.
Told in alternate voices by the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, The Language of Food is the most
thought-provoking and compelling historical novel you’ll read this year. Abbs explores the enduring
struggle for female freedom, the complexities of friendship, the creativity and quiet joy of cooking and the poetry of food, while bringing Eliza Acton out of the archives and back into the public eye.
“A portrait of Victorian domestic life that is both encompassing and finely detailed… Recipe-loving readers will appreciate the detailed descriptions of Victorian dishes like apple Hedgehog and Buttered Celery on Toast; fans of women’s history will find plenty to admire in the way Ann and Eliza inspire one another to be true to themselves in a culture that has little use for intelligent single women”
Historical Novel Society.
This is an absolutely brilliant book and one that fans of historical fiction are going to adore. This is the story of Eliza Acton, I admit I had not heard of her before and after reading this book I embarked on an internet search of her and her cookery books.
The author has used actual facts about this woman who has never cooked in her life but writes a cookery book! She wanted to be a published poet but is sidelined by the publisher. This is England in 1835 when women are not encouraged to be named authors unless they are married. The social etiquette of the time is very much concerned with what is right and proper.
Eliza however is a headstrong and strong-willed woman who decides to buck the trend and she sets about learning, tweaking and inventing her own recipes. This is not just Eliza’s story but also the story of Ann Kirby, a young woman who is taken into the service of Eliza to assist her.
This is such an addictive story and one that I devoured in one sitting – pun intended! The author has laid alternating chapters out from the perspective of either Eliza or Ann. I loved that each one was titled with the name of a dish. The women are very unique and their own characters are shown well through the book.
While Eliza has found that her family status has been lowered, Ann finds hers has been made better. Watching the two women interact and learn about each other, the roles they play and also how they work together was brilliantly done.
This is a fabulous story that brings in so many aspects of life in the 1800s, from living conditions to social status all is included. This is a story that has been well researched and has an excellent bibliography and reference section a the back.
A fascinating read about women encroaching into the world of publishing, of making a stand against expectation and challenging societies perceptions. It is one for those who love historical fiction, food and how it has changed. A gorgeously written story and one that I would definitely recommend.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Annabel Abbs is the rising star of biographical historical novels. She grew up in Bristol, Sussex and Wales before studying English Literature at The University of East Anglia. Her debut novel The Joyce Girl won the Impress Prize and was a Guardian Reader’s Pick and her second novel Frieda: The Original Lady Chatterley was a 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.
Abbs’s third novel, The Language of Food, the story of Eliza Acton, Britain’s first domestic goddess publishes in the UK in February 2022 and is currently being translated into 14
“When I inherited a collection of antiquarian cookery books I suspected a story might be lurking in
one of them. Researching and writing the story of Britain’s first domestic goddess has been a
wonderful culinary adventure.”
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