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The Good Plain Cook Paperback – 3 Jul 2008

124 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail; 1st Paperback Edition edition (3 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846686652
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846686658
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,259,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bethan Roberts was born in Abingdon. Her first novel 'The Pools' was published in 2007 and won a Jerwood/Arvon Young Writers' Award. Her second novel 'The Good Plain Cook', published in 2008, was serialized on BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime and was chosen as one of Time Out's books of the year. 'My Policeman' was the 2012 Brighton City Read and an Irish Times Book of the Year. She also writes drama for BBC Radio 4. Bethan has worked in television, and has taught Creative Writing at Chichester University and Goldsmiths College, London. She lives in Brighton with her family. Her latest novel, 'Mother Island' (Chatto & Windus) won a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize 2015.

Product Description

Review

Wonderfully drawn (Metro 2008-07-03)

Her writing demonstrates an acute awareness of gathering tension... Roberts looks set to be one of the must-read novelists of this summer (Metro 2008-07-02)

Slyly humorous (Sainsbury's 2008-08-01)

Simmering and sensual (Bella 2008-07-15)

Funny, thought-provoking and very readable (The Gloss 2008-07-01)

Roberts judiciously balances Ellen's delicious outré flamboyance with a beautifully observed portrait of her tolerant, bemused cook.Roberts has said it was her intention to "put the below-stairs girl centre stage". She has succeeded admirably (Eithne Farry Daily Mail 2008-07-18)

Delicious... Gorgeously written, full of teasing observations about love, class and cookery (Kate Saunders The Times 2008-07-19)

Vividly drawn and affecting... fine touches of subtlety and humour (Sophie Davies Financial Times 2008-07-19)

Charming (Image Magazine 2008-07-01)

A subtly witty study of class tensions and general human folly... Roberts writes an understated, suggestive prose that achieves maximum comic impact with deceptively slight materials, and the book's brisk dialogue ensures a fast pace in spite of the languid summer setting...One of the novel's greatest strengths is the way in which the surface comedy is underpinned by a darker narrative seam...The Good Plain Cook succeeds so well not least because it manages to keep its eye firmly, to the end, on the social reality it spoofs (Elizabeth Lowry Guardian 2008-07-26)

Arresting... [an] evocative novel of desires and disappointments. (Ruth Atkins Booksellers' Choice)

One of this summer's purest pleasures... Bethan Roberts is a clever, confident young writer who enjoys herself hugely, producing a perfectly proportioned story of love, inadequate cooking, cultural confusion and complex characters in domestic difficulties (Iain Finlayson Saga 2008-08-01)

A marvellously told little tale (Sunday Business Post 2008-08-03)

Beguilingly comic... Effortlessly funny (Sunday Tribune 2008-08-03)

Meditative, sensual and largely restrained (New Statesman 2008-08-18)

An evocative literary tome (Scarlet 2008-07-01)

A beautifully written tale that drew me in immediately... Illuminating and moving, this is meticulously crafted storytelling from a very gifted new writer (Linda Leatherbarrow NewBooksMag 2008-09-01)

Excellent... Has plenty to say about sex and class and say it with subtle wit and concision (John O'Connell Time Out Books of the Year 2008-12-04)

About the Author

Bethan Roberts was born in Oxford and brought up in nearby Abingdon. She has MAs from Sussex and Chichester universities and teaches creative writing at Chichester and for the Open University. Roberts was awarded a Jerwood/Arvon Young Writers' Prize for The Pools.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 27 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback
This book bought a halt to what was a rather promising run of back to back reading, something that I, like many others, have been struggling to get back to into over the years.

Simply put the book looks at the differences in the day to day realities in the lives of the working class, middle class and aristocracy in 1930s Britain. A working class girl responds to an advert for a 'good plain cook' placed by a wealthy American bohemian woman currently residing in Sussex with her middle class poet lover and eleven year old daughter. Through the protagonists' recollections of situations involving the lives of now deceased parents and lovers, Roberts casts a wider net on the various experiences of the band of classes placing a firm anchor and some much needed depth and nuance to these characters.

Nothing of any significance happens in the book. There is a small plot which I suppose justifies the story being commissioned but it is essentially an interesting historical look at the social conventions and the restraints placed on particularly the women of the time. The characters are all struggling to find their place in the world or, more accurately, define a meaningful existence for themselves against the rather staid and limited expectations society constrains them to. The situation of some of the characters is a affecting particularly that of the 11 year old Geenie who ultimately just wants the attention of a mother who is selfish and self-indulgent and ignorant of the impact her lifestyle has on her young child.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 May 2008
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Kitty at nineteen years old, wants to escape from under her sister's wing, and replies to an advertisement for 'a good plain cook', even though she has little experience of cooking. The job is with Ellen Steinberg who lives with her daughter Geenie and her lover George Crane, a poet and failed novelist.

All through the summer of 1936 in stifling heat the relationships become more complicated. There are glimpses of the past and George's daughter, Diana comes to stay. Kitty goes dancing with Arthur, the gardener and handyman and day dreams about George Crane. Innocent though she is, Kitty manages to held her own in the shifting sands of this Bohemian household.

This is not the sort of book I would normally read but I found it fascinating. The gulf between upstairs and downstairs is at times small and at others an unbridegable gulf. Characters appear sharp in the sunlight one minute and then vague the next. The writing is crisp and precise and the reader can feel the heat and the dust and then the cool water of the river where Geenie and her mother swim naked to cool off. The undercurrents in the house are echoed by those in the river. I recommend this book if you are looking for an introduction to literary fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pepper on 1 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
The Good Plain Cook has a good attempt at a character driven story but unfortunately does have a 'short story' feel about it. The lack of any real plot or any perceivable change in any of the characters means it would have suited more as a slice of life segment rather than a novel length story.

Like Jodi Picoult and many other modern female writers the story creaks under the framework of worthy research and formulaic character studies. Perhaps trying to make modern writing into more a serious 'job' and less an 'art' is increasingly creating books like this one. The result is an interesting perfectly readable book but the characters can appear somewhat clichéd and the research dutiful because the author is writing something that she knows, rather like an essay, rather than something she feels.

The Good Plain Cook is a sweet, amusing story as far as it goes but, as the writer seems to be labouring to create a workmanlike piece rather than producing something with some purpose or feeling about it, reading the book is ultimately a slightly empty experience.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By St. Mym VINE VOICE on 19 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book didn't really engage me much. It feels like a s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d short story idea, and suffers from many of the problems of modern literary writing, uneven, concentrating on small, small events and the world of a limited social group and class. There are patches of good descriptive prose, and the occasional bit of good, restrained humour. But, ultimately, I rather begrudged the time it took to read it.

Not enough recipes either...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ds VINE VOICE on 22 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I found this book a little difficult to read. not because it's badly written or unengaging; far from it in fact because Roberts' style is very easy to digest, but because of my on predilections.

The plot is relatively simple, as all the best stories tends to be. Kitty needs a job and takes up a job as a cook at the house of a rather bohemian American visitor. During the course of the story Kitty has to deal with both her employer's 11-year old daughter and live-in lover who, though an author, never actually seems to write anything.

My major problem is that, though Kitty's employers are all well-drawn characters, I didn't really like any of them, even towards the end when one might be supposed to feel more sympathetic towards them. This, I suspect, is more a problem with me than with the writing.

Indeed, if you have an interest in pre-war novels or good character-driven period stories then this may be a great book for you. It wasn't quite that for me.
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