The Language of food by Annabel Abbs | Book Review


A sensual feast of a novel, written with elegance, beauty, charm and skill in a voice that is both lyrical and unique. The Language of Food is an intriguing story with characters that leap off the page and live, but what sets it apart from it's contemporaries is Abbs' outstanding prose' Santa Montefiore Eliza Acton, despite having never before boiled an egg, became one of the world's most successful cookery writers, revolutionizing cooking and cookbooks around the world. Her story is fascinating, uplifting and truly inspiring.

Told in alternate voices by the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, and with recipes that leap to life from the page, The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is the most thought-provoking and page-turning historical novel you'll read this year, exploring the enduring struggle for female freedom, the power of female friendship, the creativity and quiet joy of cooking and the poetry of food, all while bringing Eliza Action out of the archives and back into the public eye. 'I love Abbs's writing and the extraordinary, hidden stories she unearths. Eliza Acton is her best discovery yet' Clare Pooley'A feast for the senses, rich with the flavours of Victorian England, I prepared every dish with Eliza and Ann and devoured every page.

A literary - and culinary - triumph!' Hazel Gaynor 'Exhilarating to read - thoughtful, heart-warming and poignant, with a quiet intelligence and elegance that does its heroine proud' Bridget Collins 'A sumptuous banquet of a book that nourished me and satisfied me just as Eliza Acton's meals would have... I adored it' Polly Crosby 'An effervescent novel, bursting with delectable language and elegant details about cookbook writer, Eliza Acton. Don't miss this intimate glimpse into the early English kitchens and snapshot of food history' Sara Dahmen 'Wonderful...

Abbs is such a good story teller. She catches period atmosphere and character so well' Vanessa Nicolson 'Two of my favourite topics in one elegantly written novel - women's lives and food history. I absolutely loved it' Polly Russell 'A story of courage, unlikely friendship and an exceptional character, told in vibrant and immersive prose' Caroline Scott 'Richly imagined and emotionally tender' Pen Vogler 'Characters that leap off the page, a fascinating story and so much atmosphere, you feel you're in the kitchen with Eliza - I loved it.' Frances Quinn 'I was inspired by Eliza's passion, her independence, her bravery and ambition.

Like a cook's pantry, The Language of Food is full of wonderful ingredients, exciting possibilities and secrets. Full of warmth and as comforting as sitting by the kitchen range, I loved it' Jo Thomas 'A delightful read' Nina Pottell 'Clever, unsentimental, beautifully detailed and quietly riveting' Elizabeth Buchan, author of Two Women in RomeEngland 1835. Eliza Acton is a poet who dreams of seeing her words in print.

But when she takes her new manuscript to a publisher, she's told that 'poetry is not the business of a lady'. Instead, they want her to write a cookery book. That's what readers really want from women.

England is awash with exciting new ingredients, from spices to exotic fruits. But no one knows how to use them Eliza leaves the offices appalled. But when her father is forced to flee the country for bankruptcy, she has no choice but to consider the proposal.

Never having cooked before, she is determined to learn and to discover, if she can, the poetry in recipe writing. To assist her, she hires seventeen-year-old Ann Kirby, the impoverished daughter of a war-crippled father and a mother with dementia. Over the course of ten years, Eliza and Ann developed an unusual friendship - one that crossed social classes and divides - and, together, they broke the mould of traditional cookbooks and changed the course of cookery writing forever
- sourced from Gardners. 


I know we shouldn't judge books by covers but my word, it is so beautiful. It really suits the book too in my opinion and this is only a proof copy edition. I've seen the hardback edition that has just been released, it came in to the shop today. It is stunning and sure to catch the eye of our customers. 

This book though fictional is based on facts about the life of poet and pioneering cookery writer Eliza Acton and her assistant Ann Kirby. 

I love the way the perspective switches between the two main characters, Eliza & Ann, I also liked that each chapter is numbered & notes a recipe name as a sort of title. Little details like this just make it extra special. 

To sum up the book without giving too much away the story is about Eliza & Ann, two ladies who though come from very different backgrounds form a friendship built around their shared love of food. 

I highly advise having snacks on hand whilst reading this book as the descriptions of food will certainly make you hungry. 

It is wonderfully written, a real joy to read. I can already think of some friends and customers in the shop that I'll be recommending it too. 


4 stars 

Thanks again to the author & to Random things tours for sending me this proof copy to read. 

This book is available here.