The Good Plain Cook

Bethan Roberts

The Good Plain Cook

It's summer 1936, and the world is on the cusp of change, but there's little sign of this in rural Sussex. So when local girl Kitty Allen answers an advert looking for 'a good plain cook', she has no idea what she's in for. For starters, her employer is an American called Ellen Steinberg who believes in calling the staff by their first names and sunbathing in the nude. Then there's Ellen's eleven-year-old daughter, Geenie, a bright, unhappy little thing, and Mrs Steinberg's gentleman friend, Mr Crane, who's said to be a poet - even though he doesn't have a beard and doesn't seem to write much poetry either.Rich bohemians imagining themselves as communists, Steinberg and Crane see themselves as champions of 'the people' - not that they know the first thing about how the people actually live. Kitty is in no place to criticise - after all she claimed to be a good plain cook, despite hardly knowing how to boil an egg. Utterly out of her depth, she is relieved to have the gardener, Arthur, to talk to. Otherwise she'd never last a summer in this madhouse. Ellen Steinberg wants life to run as smoothly as the love story she imagines her lover George Crane to be writing. But as Kitty arrives, the dream is on the edge of falling apart. 2.8 out of 5 based on 2 reviews
The Good Plain Cook

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Paperback
Pages 320
RRP £10.99
Date of Publication July 2008
ISBN 978-1846686658
Publisher Serpent's Tail
 

It's summer 1936, and the world is on the cusp of change, but there's little sign of this in rural Sussex. So when local girl Kitty Allen answers an advert looking for 'a good plain cook', she has no idea what she's in for. For starters, her employer is an American called Ellen Steinberg who believes in calling the staff by their first names and sunbathing in the nude. Then there's Ellen's eleven-year-old daughter, Geenie, a bright, unhappy little thing, and Mrs Steinberg's gentleman friend, Mr Crane, who's said to be a poet - even though he doesn't have a beard and doesn't seem to write much poetry either.Rich bohemians imagining themselves as communists, Steinberg and Crane see themselves as champions of 'the people' - not that they know the first thing about how the people actually live. Kitty is in no place to criticise - after all she claimed to be a good plain cook, despite hardly knowing how to boil an egg. Utterly out of her depth, she is relieved to have the gardener, Arthur, to talk to. Otherwise she'd never last a summer in this madhouse. Ellen Steinberg wants life to run as smoothly as the love story she imagines her lover George Crane to be writing. But as Kitty arrives, the dream is on the edge of falling apart.

Reviews

The Financial Times

Sophie Davies

Some scenes, particularly those between Ellen and her daughter, are vividly drawn and affecting. There are also fine touches of subtlety and humour. However, this is a story of class and culture that has been told many times before.

15/04/2009

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The New Statesman

Charlie Hill

The tone may be mocking, but it is subtly so. It starts to grate, however, with the suspicion that Roberts's response to the milieu into which Kitty has been thrust is more an indication of her own disapproval of the moneyed classes than an authentic portrayal of how Kitty may have been stimulated to deal with her exposure to this brave new world.

14/08/2008

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