Synopsis (from Amazon)
Gabriel Lightfoot, executive chef at the once-splendid Imperial Hotel, aims to run a tight kitchen. Though under constant challenge from the competing demands of an exuberantly multinational staff, a gimlet-eyed hotel management, and business partners with whom he is secretly planning a move to a restaurant of his own, all Gabe’s hard work looks set to pay off. Until, that is, a worker turns up dead in the kitchen basement… Enter Lena, an eerily attractive young woman with mysterious ties to the dead man. Under her spell, Gabe makes a decision, with consequences that strip him naked, and change the course of the life he knows – and the future he thought he wanted.
Okay, time to be honest, I pretty much bought In the Kitchen because I remembered really liking Brick Lane. I was waiting for it to come out in paperback for so long I eventually gave in and brought it in hardback when Borders was closing down, but it’s still one of the books which has been on my To Be Read list for the longest amount of time. I did start it shortly after buying it but decided I wasn’t in the right mood for reading it, so it has sat on my TBR pile staring at me ever since. Everytime my TBR pile gets low it seems to be saying “Pick me! Pick me! You wanted me so much!” but I was never in the right mood.
Well when I eventually did get around to starting it (almost a week ago now) I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel right about it first time. There is something about the opening which showed so much promise. A bit of intrigue, a promise of something unknown to be revealed. Unfortunately things went downhill from there. Things were just so slow. That first chapter made insinuations that lots was going to happen. I didn’t really expect a fast paced, exciting, detective style novel. It’s still Monica Ali after all and if Brick Lane is anything to go by she’s not the writer of fast paced novels, preferring the gradual reveal. However while I remember Brick Lane having so fantastic descriptions and a great insight to life as an Asian migrant in Britain I didn’t find any such interest in In The Kitchen. While there was the element of a revealing of life as an Eastern European migrant it wasn’t as deep as the insight had been in Brick Lane and didn’t hold so much interest for me.
Really it wasn’t a story about Eastern Europeans, or about a kitchen. It wasn’t a story about a death. It wasn’t a story about a woman. No it was really a story about Gabriel, and, to be perfectly honest I didn’t like Gabriel. I have no particular reason to not like Gabriel, I just didn’t, and really I didn’t care about what happened to him. I think if I had cared about Gabriel I would have liked the story, so it’s really a shame I didn’t. In the Kitchen was slow going but it was all about the gradual reveal, the journey to a climatic end. By then I was a little interested, and if I liked Gabriel I might have ended up liking the whole book, such a shame.
Maybe this review is a bit biased. I can see how good Monica Ali’s writing is. I can see how clever she is with her little clues of what will happen to Gabriel, how she uses the journey to a climax with great success. I really wish I could have loved this book, but in the end the journey was just too long for me.