Book review: A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry

Laura Griffin feels blessed'¦ she has a wonderful husband, a beautiful home, two daughters making their way in the world, and a fresh new page in front of her.

Monday, 14th May 2018, 2:53 pm
Updated Monday, 14th May 2018, 2:56 pm
A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry
A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry

But just as she relishes the chance to make more time for herself, a shocking discovery sends her running for cover… and facing a future very different to the one she had imagined.

Home-spun, feel-good novels are what much-loved author Veronica Henry does best and her new slice of what she calls ‘realistic escapism’ is a deliciously seductive concoction of family life, warm friendships and food so tasty that readers will be licking their lips in delight.

A Family Recipe is Henry at her acutely observant best… dishing up real life, real people and real issues but with the lightest of touches, the warmest of hearts and with the wisdom of an author who knows just how family life works.

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Laura Griffin is a born mother and homemaker… there is no safer place for her than the kitchen, the room at her old and treasured Regency family home in the beautiful city of Bath where she ‘felt love and gave love’ and cooks up food that is the envy of everyone.

But Laura is on the cusp of change. Her youngest daughter Willow, whose childhood has been blighted by severe asthma attacks leaving her mum constantly worried and anxious, is heading off to university in York. And with older, more independent daughter Jasmine already away, Laura is preparing herself for an empty nest.

The thought of Number 11 Lark Hill falling silent – a home that is usually bustling with noise, people and the fragrant smells of something cooking on the Aga – seems impossible although Laura secretly hopes it will open new avenues for herself, and more time with her workaholic property developer husband Dom.

But when she discovers that Dom is having an affair, the foundations of her marriage are severely shaken and Laura – angry, frightened and despairing – suddenly feels as though her family is shrinking around her.

Feeling lost, Laura turns to her friend Sadie, her beloved grandmother Jilly who lives in a cottage in the grounds of 11 Lark Hill, and her greatest comfort… Jilly’s recipe box, a treasured collection dating back to the Second World War.

Everyone has always adored Laura’s jams and chutneys, piling their sandwiches high with her pickles.

Inspired by Jilly’s old Blitz spirit, Laura has an idea that gives her a fresh sense of purpose and a determination to carve her own path. But even the bravest woman still needs the people who love her…

In a story perfectly and lovingly blended together by a book of treasured recipes, Laura, her family and their friends learn that what really matters in life is love, loyalty, shared experience and a place to call home.

But Henry’s warm and emotion-packed novel, which weaves seamlessly between past and present, is certainly not a recipe for all that is cutesy and cosy… there is a gritty edge to the rounded corners, and a dash of harsh truth hidden inside the stories of Laura and Jilly which makes their struggles all the more real and all the more compelling.

Written with Henry’s trademark wit and vitality, her sparkling dialogue, cleverly drawn characters and mouth-watering food, A Family Recipe packs the perfect ingredients for a springtime reading treat.

(Orion, paperback, £7.99)