Title: In the Kitchen
Author: Monica Ali
Release Date: June 16, 2009
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Gabriel Lightfoot is the executive chef at a hotel restaurant in London, though he dreams of having his own restaurant one day. He manages a crazy, hodge-podge band of workers in the kitchen. One day, the body of a night porter named Yuri is discovered in the basement, and it’s unclear whether it was an accident or murder. Yuri’s death sets in motion a chain of events that affects Gabriel profoundly.
In the Kitchen is about an entire kitchen staff, but mostly it’s the story of Gabriel, a man on the edge. His life is slowly falling apart, though he doesn’t realize it. The entire book is basically the tale of his gradual nervous breakdown. Monica Ali portrays him very convincingly. The reader can feel Gabriel’s angst and nervousness. She never has to tell the reader Gabriel is breaking down – she shows it to us clearly enough.
This book is also very well written. Ali proves that she’s an amazing writer through In the Kitchen. Her descriptions are wonderful and her prose has a lyrical quality that’s wonderful to read.
However, there are also a lot of flaws within In the Kitchen. First of all, the cast of characters is much too large. Gabriel is really the only character who’s fully developed; as a result, the rest of the characters don’t really stick in the reader’s mind. It’s almost painful to constantly be reading about some random person who you’re going to forget as soon as the paragraph is over just because there isn’t anything memorable enough about them to commit them to memory.
Also, the book is incredibly slow. The last 1/4 of the book is good, but until then, it just plods along. It also takes that long for the reader to actually begin to care about what happens to Gabriel – until then, it’s difficult to care about any of the characters in the book. Even when the story begins to turn around, it can’t redeem the rest of the novel.
In the Kitchen had a lot of negative points. Though I’m still glad I read it, the writing was really the only thing that got me through the book. As I said before, it turns around in the last 1/4 of the novel where Monica Ali beautifully brings everything together, but it’s so difficult to get to that point that it’s hard to say it’s worth reading it. Still, the book was intriguing enough to where I’m interested in Monica Ali’s future works.