The Little Cornish Kitchen by Jane Linfoot
It’s time to come home to Cornwall
With an exciting new life in Paris, Clemmie Hamilton isn’t looking forward to heading home to the picturesque but sleepy village of St Aidan, Cornwall. However, when she discovers that the cosy apartment by the sea, which her grandmother left to her, is under threat from neighbour and property developer, Charlie Hobson, Clemmie realises she can’t abandon her home in its time of need.
With her childhood friends encouraging her, Clemmie decides to turn the apartment into ‘The Little Cornish Kitchen’ – a boutique pop up pudding club raising money for the repairs to the building in an effort to stop Charlie once and for all. But when Charlie and his easy charm won’t seem to go away, everything soon becomes even messier than the state of Clemmie’s Cornish kitchen…
I seem to be spending my reading time whizzing between Cornwall and Yorkshire – not that I’m complaining – this time we’re back in Cornwall, in a town called St Aidan, with life-long friends and mermaids Sophie, Plum, Nell, and Clemmie. We open with a launch of Sophie’s latest beauty products where her three friends are working as their favourite personas – mermaids.
WARNING: this book is not for anyone with a cake habit! Your mouth will be watering before the end of the first chapter, it won’t stop until long after you’ve finished the book, and you’ll be craving cakes all the way through. I have no idea how I managed on merely half a packet of gingernuts, a cinnamon Danish, some Jaffa cakes, and two large helpings of carrot cake!
Chapter One is a virtuoso lesson in giving the reader necessary information and background about characters in an amusing and totally entertaining way, and without the reader feeling that they are being spoon-fed facts. It’s an absolutely fantastic opening chapter.
(Aside: Iron Maiden Cleaners? Somebody really ought to start that business!)
Our narrator is Clemmie, who has reluctantly returned home after many years working her way around various countries and is currently in Paris. She is back to deal as fast as possible with matters regarding the flat left to her by her grandmother of whom she has very little memory. Clemmie struck me as sulky and petulant. She’s so tied up in her world of travel and adventure, refusing to be tied down to a small, local life, in a town where your private life isn’t private, and the horizons are restricted and narrow, that she can’t see there is no adventure. She believes her friends are
…all as settled as I am rootless. They can’t imagine living without the echo of the waves rushing up the beach, and the familiar clink of the rigging on the boats bobbing in the harbour. If I explained non-stop for a month, they’d never get that for me St Aidan isn’t enough. That after half a day away from Paris, I’m aching for the broad boulevards and big elegant buildings and the round-the-clock roar of the traffic. They don’t get that the world beyond here is huge. And they totally miss that when Paris dulls I’ll move on and feel the thrill all over again somewhere new. Even though my jobs are what they call ‘shit’ ones, and my career trajectory is non-existent, at least they allow me to move. To be free.
What we gradually discover is a woman who, no matter how she protests otherwise, isn’t free at all. Clemmie has a deep-seated hurt – her father left before she was born and has never been a part of her life. Growing up it was not a topic for discussion. Clemmie learned at a young age that any talk of him caused her mother pain and so she blocked him from her thoughts. Her refusal to even acknowledge this hurt exists, never mind address it, has had implications that affected her life in so many ways. She has taken no interest in the property she owns, has little recollection of Laura, her Grandmother, and just wishes to be rid of this one thing that connects her to her unknown father. A visit to the flat changes everything. There is no escaping your past and its unanswered questions.
While Clemmie has been drifting from job to job and country to country, her three friends have evolved and grown. Each of the three women showed various aptitudes when they were younger that have led them too successful careers and comfortable lives, but Clemmie displayed none.
Sophie is a high-powered, highly organised, super-efficient business woman, married to Nate and with four children, and wealthy. It is her natural beauty products being launched in Plum’s gallery. Sophie’s life looks ‘like she plucked it from the Boden catalogue’
Plum is an artist. After she finished university, she took on a disused chandlers as her studio, opened it as a gallery, selling her paintings, and the work of other artists as well. It’s a thriving business, and while she is currently single and happy, unlike Clemmie and Nell, she is not opposed to finding that special someone.
Nell is a ‘hot-shot accountant’ in it for the money. She is also St Aidan’s Singles Club event organiser extra-ordinaire. Her amicable divorce turned out to be painful for Nell. Within a short space of time her ex-husband had a new wife, children, and the domestic life that she wanted but he didn’t.
Thrown into this mix is Charlie Hobson and his dog Diesel. Charlie is hot, dark, but moody and scowling. Worse still, he’s a property developer and therefore the ‘bad guy’. Gradually we learn more about Charlie and have a constant battle as to whether we like him or not. What property is he after and can he be trusted? People who go through life long-faced and miserable, usually have a reason to do so. What has happened to Charlie to make him scowl?
The author takes us through the story regarding Clemmie’s flat whilst at the same time, she peels the layers back on each of the characters, but most specifically Clemmie and Charlie, as well as Nell. It is a beautifully nuanced tale. As Clemmie finds herself thrown into Charlie’s company regularly, never knowing quite what his property developer intentions are, and with her friends rocking from one events to another, she discovers a world of memories. The sulky, petulant woman in Chapter One, shows us that she is funny and feisty, but scared of the unknown in terms of relationships. Whatever misgivings I had about Clemmie’s character at the beginning of the novel, long before the end I really liked her, and felt her struggle. ‘No commitment’ has been her default setting for all aspects of her life, and we see her friends and others gradually build her confidence, show Clemmie her worth, her aptitude, and her capacity for love and forgiveness.
It would be easy to say this is a heart-warming tale, but that is too simplistic. The Little Cornish Kitchen is filled with humour and kindness, tenderness and love; the love of friends as much as romantic love. It’s about second chances, at life, at love, and at family; its about dropping your guard and letting people in no matter how scary, and grasping the future with both hands. I loved the kitchen scenes with Clem and Charlie, they were so revealing for both of them, and I love that she finally discovers that she does have a great talent and skill after all. She had just forgotten.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough – I loved every page, and every character, especially Diesel. Read and enjoy!
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Jane Linfoot is a best-selling author, who lives in a muddy cottage, up a steep hill in Derbyshire, with her family, their pets, and an astonishing number of spiders. Although she loves seeing cow noses over the garden wall, she’s happy she can walk to a supermarket.
Jane grew up in North Yorkshire where she spent a lot of her childhood avoiding horizontal gales blowing off the sea, and wrote her first book by accident, while working as an architect, and renovating country houses. While she loves to write feel-good books that let readers escape, she’s always surprised to hear her stories make people laugh, admits to (occasionally) crying as she writes, and credits her characters for creating their own story lines.
Jane’s garden would be less brambley if she wasn’t on Facebook and Twitter so often. On days when she wants to be really scared, she rides a tandem.
Her latest books include a series of stand alone novels, based around a seaside wedding shop in Cornwall. Cupcakes and Confetti – The Little Wedding Shop by the Sea, Sequins and Snowflakes – Christmas at the Little Wedding Shop, and Bunting and Bouquets – Summer at the Little Wedding Shop, and most recently, The Little Cornish Kitchen. These are all published by Harper Impulse, an imprint of Harper Collins.
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