“Food reveals a great deal. It also serves to fix the memory. Better than a diary. Even years later, the recall is instant.”
*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***
It’s no secret that I have a weak spot for WWII historical fiction, and having a story set just after the war is over seemed like a real catch. Add both a spy and a food element, and it sounded like a perfect match for me… I’ve been looking forward to read Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook ever since, positive I was going to love my time with this story. I’m still not sure what happened and it might just have been that it’s simply not the right time for me to read this type of story, but the fact is that I ended up having mixed thoughts instead.
First of all I do have to stress that I still love the premise of the story. The 1946 setting, the many different locations in multiple countries, the spy element, the food, the clever spy code, the historical events incorporated into the plot… There were a lot of things I did enjoy in this story and the descriptions were thorough and really gave color to both the settings and the historical situation with the gruesome aftermath of the war. It made for the perfect backdrop for the plot and set the right tone for the story in general.
That said, one of my main issues with this story is that it is rather overlong and really drags in points. I don’t mind descriptions and detail, but there was just something about Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook that didn’t manage to grab my attention and I even caught myself starting to skimread in points. The fact that we have a big cast of characters who mostly seem to be unreliable or at least hiding something got a little old too. While I do get how this could add suspense to the plot and give it that spy thriller feel, it mostly started to annoy me that many characters seem to have a hidden agenda. Double crossing and backstabbing might be part of the spy game, but it wasn’t something I enjoyed reading about. The pace in the final part was a bit faster, although one of the plot twists was a bit of a let down and unnecessary for me (those who’ve read the story will probably know what I’m talking about).
I still like the food element of the story and how recipes are used as part of the code to send messages between the characters. The recipes included at the beginning of some chapters were initially a nice touch, and definitely made me crave some of the food mentioned, but after a while it did get a bit tedious especially if the recipe turned out to be a long one. Most of the possibly hidden messages were never explained, and it started to distract from the plot itself. I’m not too sure what to make of the characters either, which is probably due to the fact most seem to have that hidden agenda. I did like how the final chapter ended up being connected to the beginning and how the circle was completed.
In short, while this story sadly wasn’t for me personally, if you enjoy slower paced historical fiction with a focus on descriptions and unreliable characters, Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook will probably work better for you.