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November 19, 2021

Miss Eliza's English Kitchen by Annabel Abbs ~ an Audiobook Review

by Donna Huber

It's Nonfiction November and everywhere you look readers are talking about all the great nonfiction they are reading. If you haven't read much in nonfiction since your school days. Well, you aren't alone. A few years ago I was in the same boat. How did I get started reading (and enjoying) nonfiction? I read fiction (mostly historical fiction) that was based on real people or events. These dramatizations led me to want to know more about the person or event. If you are finding yourself wanting to read nonfiction but not quite ready (or not sure where to start) to take the plunge, then I have the perfect book for you today - Miss Eliza's English Kitchen by Annabel Abbs.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free audiobook was provided for an honest review.

Miss Eliza's English Kitchen
November 2021; HarperAudio; 9780063066489
audio (11h 10m), ebook, print; biographical fiction

Eliza Acton was a Victorian-era poet and food writer. She revolutionized cooking in many ways. The economic hardships of the time meant that fewer middle-class families were able to employ a cook. Indeed, for Eliza it was the reduced circumstances her family found themselves in that led to her creating a cookbook that everyday housewives could use. Our modern-day cookbooks are written in the way they are (with a list of ingredients and straightforward instructions) thanks to Eliza Acton.

Miss Eliza's English Kitchen is a fictionalized account of the early years that Acton and her assistant Ann Kirby spent devising and testing recipes in Acton's monther's boarding house. (There is no mention of an assistant either on Acton's Wikipedia page or any Google search except in relation to this book). Acton spent 10 years creating her cookbook, but the story is confined to the beginning.

I don't typically read books set during the Victorian era and I had trouble getting into the book at first. I'm glad I listened to it on audiobook. While it was an interesting story I think I personally would have had trouble reading it for myself due totally to the time period. The book reminded me a lot of Jo Baker's Longbourn and a bit of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. If you are a fan of either of those books, then you will definitely enjoy this book.

I really liked the characters. Abbs gave them depth - even the minor characters who were guests at the boarding house. I picked up the book mainly because of my interest in cooking and my love of cookbooks. But there is as much time (possibly more time) spent on bringing these characters to life through the sharing of their personal life. 

The book begins many years after the completion of the cookbook when Ann's current employer gives her a cookbook for domestic cooks. Ann immediately recognizes the recipes as the ones she and Eliza worked on, yet it isn't Acton's name on the cover. The reader is then transported to the past. This isn't exactly told by Ann or even following on her memories as we are introduced to Eliza and Ann before they ever met.

There are a lot of secrets to be uncovered and societal norms to overcome which adds intrigue to the story. It is much like what we saw in the British television show and movie Downton Abbey

Speaking to television, Miss Eliza's English Kitchen has been optioned by CBS Studios and Stampede Ventures. So you will definitely want to pick up this book now because you know the book is almost always better than the screen adaptation.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour

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