Book Review: The Temporary Bride, by Jennifer Klinec

Available in bookstores nationwide.

The Temporary Bride is a memoir of how Jennifer Klinec, owner of a cooking school in cv_the_temporary_brideLondon, goes to Iran for cooking inspiration and falls in love with the son of her cooking instructor.

The author starts the book with an overview into an unconventional childhood. Independent at an early age, she quickly develops the travel bug, spending most weekends travelling while spending the weeks in a corporate job. She ends her corporate career when she opens a cooking school – priding itself on teaching authentic cooking. Her travels are now research for her day job, and her next stop is Iran.

Jennifer is excited to visit Iran, she contemplates and prepares by practicing wearing a headscarf. She is keen to fit in when she arrives as she senses this will be the key to a successful trip. On arrival she quickly meets Vahid, a local who speaks to her, practicing his English. She is invited to join Vahid and his uncle for sightseeing, and this quickly turns into an invitation to join Vahid’s mother for cooking lessons. The cooking lessons are supplemented by trips with Vahid to sample eyeball soup and to visit a slaughterhouse.

It becomes obvious that Jennifer is interested in Vahid, and a relationship quickly develops (it is hard to remember that the trip the book is based on lasts only a month). In a country without a dating culture, commencing a relationship is dangerous. For Vahid, there are some very real dangers − from the bureaucracy of the state and the disapproval of his family. The temporary solution that they find (the title of the book relates to this solution) was fascinating. I do not wish to spoil the story, so will merely note that I spent awhile online researching this concept.

Jennifer is not always a sympathetic character, and does not flinch from writing about her thoughts and actions when they do present her in a difficult light. Her experiences, culture and upbringing mean that she feels it is OK to pursue a relationship with Vahid − even though she is acutely aware of the problems and devastation that will follow. I found these parts slightly awkward. I became quite concerned for Vahid! But if you enjoy ‘love conquers all’ storylines then you will perhaps not share these concerns.

I was quite disappointed that this memoir of a cooking teacher learning about Iranian food had mouth watering descriptions of food but no recipes!* Jennifer Kilnec writes about food so beautifully, the meals felt alive to me. She is so clearly knowledgeable about food, and so keen to learn about the places she travels to. She is contemplative and deliberate and her writing is exquisite and alluring. It is a travel and relationship memoir, rather than a food memoir.

*There is one recipe on her website for a dish called tahdig.

Reviewed by Emma Wong-Ming

The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran
by Jennifer Klinec
Published by Virago
ISBN 9781844088232

 

Book review: Park Lane by Frances Osborne

Throw me a bit of historical fiction and I’m a happy bunny. So picking up Park Lane by British writer Frances Osborne reminded me of those gripping-in-parts ‘rom-historic’ Philippa Gregory novels.

Positioned during Great Britain’s suffragette movement and the build-up to the First World War, Park Lane tells of the parallel experiences of two women in Edwardian London and the disparities and connections between the lives of the haves and the have-nots.

In a very Downton Abbey set-up, the painted scenes of London’s streets and parks brought out the Brit in me, making me feel nostalgic again for the smog-filled city (although I was aware that perhaps my engagement was due in part to the fact I grew up in the UK).

The interlinking plots painted different snapshots of society during that era; smoke-filled drawing rooms, glamorous dances and flowing silk frocks – sitting above cold stone parlours, uniformed butlers and small grey attic rooms housing maids from ‘The North’, searching for their societal leg-up.

Yet as I was starting to wave my feminist bra in the air, enjoying the suffragette tales and images formed in my mind of grim women in prickly tweed burning down the houses of government ministers alongside their upper class counterparts, the suffragette story was dropped completely and moved into war build-up. Suddenly the main protagonist was driving ambulances in a war zone not long after her time was taken stealing secret intellectual ‘tea’ dates with a mystery gentleman and spear-heading the aggressive suffragette protests.

It did mean that at times I had a feeling of unresolved narrative, with a sense of two parts of the book (and aptly named ‘Peace’ and ‘War’, although both eras sounded like war to me in some ways) with the suffragettes and war fields making the story feel slightly disjointed.

I read and enjoyed many parts of the text, but admittedly, Park Lane failed to really come together as a page-turner and perhaps that’s why this review has taken a while in formulating itself. According to Park Lane’s cover, Frances Osborne’s previous book, The Bolter, was a Number One Bestseller, yet I couldn’t help feeling that the new book might be the poorer second sister.

Osborne did include some neat twists in the storyline and the modern ‘walk-away’ feel at the end denied any predictability we might have wanted to happen and in this way, did stay true to what would have been the cultural norms at the time, rather than just appeasing our taste for the ideal.

Park Lane is one I’d recommend for easy reading and for those who want a bit more than a romantic romp and like their fiction ‘Gregory-esque.’ Given that The Bolter was such a hit, I’m sure this one will still be a popular choice.

Reviewed by Amanda Robinson

Park Lane
by Frances Osborne
Published by Virago Press
ISBN 9781844084784