Category Archives: strange detour in plot

Elza’s Kitchen

Elzas Kitchen
Marc Fitten
Published by Bloomsbury USA
224 pages
Available on
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.
3.5 / 5 cupcakes

I don’t think this book can figure out what it’s about. Is it a mid-life coming of age? A woman’s need to right a wrong? The story of two lovers who need to be away from each other in order to grow? Elza is a chef in Hungary, but she’s restless. At forty-eight, she feels like her life should go somewhere, but it isn’t. Her restaurant is successful, but not recognized by Michelin. Her romance with her nearly two decades younger sous chef is equally stagnant. He wants to get married, but she doesn’t. She decides that she needs to make changes in her professional and love lives, and at first, neither plan seems to work out well.

Ten years of scraping pots and gutting chickens and getting burned by pans that spit oil at her, of giving up a normal life, had led her to this: no family, no love, no respect, a filthy kitchen and an ex-lover stirring a pot of cherries with an attractive owner woman? Elza did not think herself a jealous woman, but right now she wanted to break a few dishes.

Okay. So. As a romance, this is pretty good. Elza is kind of mean spirited, but, as another character observes, she’s frozen in her head. She really doesn’t know what she wants. Yet we like her, and we want her to find her way. But then the book takes an odd turn. Elza accidentally injures a child, and now we’re off on some rot of retribution-fueled tangent. Strange, to say the least. One observation: none of the male characters is named. They are all referred to by their jobs – the sous chef, the dishwasher, the line cook. Only the women are named. It’s an interesting choice, no? This is a quick book to read, and ultimately satisfying, but there is that odd detour that sort of throws you. Still, Marc Fitten has an interesting voice that deserves to be read.

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