Title: Elza’s Kitchen
Author: Marc Fitten
Genre: General Fiction
For years, Elza has gotten by. A divorcee out of culinary school, she started her own little restaurant in the mid-size Hungarian city of Delibab, and she’s grown a decent business, cooking quality versions of Hungarian classics and serving them with a smile. But lately her smile has gotten tired. Her loveless affair with her sous-chef has become an irritation. She’s getting sick of the same old dishes and the same old customers. And in these nascent years of capitalism, it will take some competition – both personal and professional – to make her see that her restaurant, and her happiness, is worth fighting for.
Marc Fitten fell in love with Hungary after years spent living there, and his second novel is a celebration of its culture and cuisine, as well as a portrait of a woman and her country in transition
One of the first things that struck me – and I am not sure of the reasoning behind it – is that all the male characters are referred to by their career i.e. the Sous-Chef, the Dishwasher, The Critic, The Policeman etc. – the young Gypsy boy being an exception to this. All the female characters were called by their first names – Elza, Dora and Eva. It didn’t deter from the story, just had me wondering as to why?
I selected ELZA’S KITCHEN because it is set in Hungary – and in a few months I will be visiting this country. I had hoped it would give an insight into what I can expect. I can tell you that it has given me a whole list of Hungarian delicacies to look out for – there is more to Hungary than just goulash. I always expected this would be the case, but it is nice to have the conformation. Her description of the dishes that Elza created in her kitchen had me drooling. When she cooked it was the only time the character came alive on the pages. I have Paprika Chicken on my must try list – and anything with dumplings!
I can’t say that I really connected to any of the characters much at all; they just didn’t come completely alive for me. I was reading Elza’s story but not relating to Elza; I guess because she didn’t know what she wanted from life; which direction she wanted to go; she was just floating along without an aim and it is hard to connect to someone like that. By the time I started to feel something for her the story was just about over. I guess at the beginning she was without hope, no aims not future and maybe, just maybe, there was the glimmer of a future for her.
Rating: C – Above average. Was very readable and enjoyable.
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