Monday 7 February 2022


Book review: The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs [blog tour]

You know when you read a book (in one sitting) that is so good that you immediately have to message everyone you know who has ever picked up a book in their life that they immediately need to read it? That's The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs for me. I was mildly interested in it because of that stunning cover and the fact that it's a historical fiction with a foodie twist, but never did I think I would fall in love with it as much as I did. But I have, and I will warn you now that I will continue banging on about how amazing this novel is for the remainder of 2022. 

Eliza Acton is a poet. But in 19th century England, woman aren't meant to write poetry. So despite having a published poetry book under her belt already, Eliza struggles to find someone willing to publish more of her work. Instead she is told to write a cookery book. Even though, as a lady, she has never even stepped foot inside a kitchen before. 

While Eliza initially refuses, thinking it an insult to her writing, when she does a bit of research into the cookbooks that exist at that time, she realises there is a huge gap in the market. They're overly complicated, lacking in detail, and impossible to figure out for domestic cooks. Eliza is determined to make them more comprehensible for every-day use and she becomes the first person to create recipes as we know them today; with a detailed list of ingredients and measurements alongside the instructions. 

To help her in the kitchen, Eliza hires 17-year-old Ann Kirby. A poor girl who has spend most of her life taking care of a father who lost a leg in the war, and a mother who has lost her mind and does not remember Ann. Despite coming from wildly different backgrounds, Eliza and Ann immediately click, and together they learn, work, adapt, and refine the dishes in their kitchen, turning everyday ingredients into poetry on a plate. 

The Language of Food is an utterly delicious read that I devoured from start to finish. It's a fascinating story of upstairs and downstairs, cookery, and poetry – and filled with lush descriptions of food. Even dishes that may sound peculiar to us these days, were described with such a love and understanding of the ingredients on the plate, and the way they complement each other, that it sounded enticing despite not being my thing at all. 

That isn't to say that this book was 'just' beautiful descriptions of tasty food. On contrary. The hard work, determination, and setbacks that Eliza and Ann face along the way was raw and realistic, harrowing but eye-opening. Being a woman in 19th century England was really difficult. Whether you were the lady of the house like Eliza and were expected to marry and give up your own life and passions, or someone who grew up like Ann, suffering abuse, hunger, and judgment just for being born in the wrong family. 

And Annabel Abbs has done an incredible job marrying fact and fiction in her novel. I love stories that shine a light on lesser-known people from history. I read the delightful The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn last year, and The Language of Food is another great example of this. Before I read it, I had no idea Eliza Acton even existed, or what a difference she has made to cookery books as we know them today. But as soon as I turned the final page I went to Wikipedia to learn more about her and Ann's lives, to understand which parts in the story were real, and which were fictionalised. It's a wonderful thing when a book can make such an impact that even after closing it, it won't let you go, and you continue thinking, talking, and reading about it.  

The Language of Food is part historical fiction, part poetic food descriptions, and entirely a beautiful and compelling story of two inspiring women determined to make a difference in their own lives and in that of others, set against the hardships, social standards, and expectations of the time. By the end of it, I absolutely loved Eliza and Ann, they felt like friends I was rooting for to succeed. 

If you pick up just one new read in 2022, make sure it's this one. 

The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is published by Simon and Schuster and you can purchase your copy now from your favourite book shop.

Blog tour stops for 'The Language of Food' by Annabel Abbs

This review for 'The Language of Food' is a part of the official blog tour for the launch of the book. Make sure you check out the other stops!

Disclaimer: This book was gifted to me by the publisher, but this has not impacted this honest review.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the blog tour support x


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