Thursday, 14 April 2011

Thyme Out

I'm quite pleased at the way my Foodie book challenge is going. I think I'm enjoying this slightly unusual challenge so much because you can read non-fiction or fiction as long as food is a major theme of the book. The Foodie challenge is being hosted by Margot at Joyfully Retired and runs all year. There are different levels of reading and I'm doing 'Bon Vivant' which is to read 4 to 6 books. Thyme Out by Katie Fforde is my book 3 so I'm about halfway through now, though I suspect I may end up reading more than 6.

Perdita Dylan is 29 years old, divorced for 10 years and running her own business. She grows and supplies unusual salad ingredients to local businesses - hotels, health spas - on land lent to her by her closest friend, Kitty. Kitty is 87 years old and practically brought Perdita up. Her parents were of the absent variety, always away on some trekking project or other, so Kitty has always been like a mother to Perdita and the two now live very happily as neighbours.

One morning, Perdita delivers the usual order of salad leaves to a local hotel and, to her horror, discovers that the chef has left and been replaced by her ex-husband, Lucas. The last she'd heard of him he was still 'something in the city' and she assumed he was still with the older woman he'd left her for, not cheffing in her neck of the woods. It has taken Perdita years to recover from the break-up and she is not happy in the slightest to see him.

The situation is not helped by the fact that Lucas has clearly turned into the chef from hell. He's demanding and truculent with his staff, and treats Perdita in the same manner. Perdita is furious at this turn her life has taken. She is not well off and has to work long hours for what little she does have, but at least she was content and happy growing her veg. Now things are complicated and difficult decisions have to be made. Is she really prepared to let Lucas inveigle her into making a TV cookery show with him?

Things come to a head when Kitty suffers a stroke. Roger, a long-lost relative of Kitty's turns up. At first he seems nice and it looks like he's there to help but slowly Perdita starts to suspect his motives. Who can she turn to for help as Kitty's situation worsens? The answer is obvious but unwelcome to Perdita as she's been trying to ignore her growing attraction for her ex-husband. There is no way she will allow him hurt her like he did before.

I suppose many would call Katie Fforde's books 'light, enjoyable reads' which, in some respects, they certainly are. The romantic aspect of this book is fun and 'funny' as we watch Perdita struggle with this ridiculous situation and try to keep everything together. It's clear she's kidding herself about her real feelings but on the other hand the reader feels for her because Lucas is actually a bit of a pig and, truthfully, you really don't know what to think about him as you read on.

The other side of the coin here is the sad situation with Perdita's friend, Kitty. It felt strange for me actually, because Kitty is so like my late mother-in-law in her quirkiness and obsession with gardening, that it was uncanny. Plus, the same thing happened to her in that she also had a stroke. So I could identify completely with the situation in the book. Kitty has always been there for Perdita and now it's the other way round - Perdita is the carer and has no idea what the future will hold. The uncertainty is no joke and forms the very real backdrop to what is, to all intents and purposes, a romance book. It makes it real and relevant but the book is never maudlin or depressing. Kitty's influence in her life is celebrated by Perdita; it's hard but she feels lucky to have had this wonderful woman in her life, and that was exactly the way I felt about my mother-in-law.

Being both a cook and, to a lesser extent, a gardener, I loved those elements of the story. Perdita can grow anything but can't cook to save her life. Thus, certain situations she finds herself in are hilarious - even if they are her own fault. And hearing about what goes on in a fine dining kitchen and also how a TV cookery show is put together made the book even more interesting for me.

I actually haven't read that many books by Katie Fforde... a couple I think... but they're always enjoyable. I don't remember the others being quite this thought provoking but that may be because I didn't identify with them quite as strongly as I did this one. I will certainly read more, as and when I see them in the library.


Val said...

Lovely review..I really enjoyed her first three books then I lost touch for a while so to speak ...the canal based (thinks hard...ok off to google...found them ...Living Dangerously (1995)The Rose Revived (1995)Wild Designs (1996))
was especially enjoyable and I loved the first one..nice light fun reads..with some EM Delafield like thoughts shared that never quite make it to actions but that we sympathize

DesLily said...

Fforde is not a common name.. any relation to Jasper Fforde?

this book sounds different from what I am used to hearing from you. Glad it was enjoyable though.. a new avenue to explore? (just what you need)

GeraniumCat said...

I always enjoy Katie Fforde, she's very reliable when you're feeling a bit as though things are getting on top of you and you definitely can't cope with anything serious. What a good choice for the Foodie Challenge - on which I'm failing miserably at the moment. Maybe I'll take a leaf out of your book and start with foodie fiction (it isn't lack of interest that's holding me up, just time).

Cath said...

Val: The canal based one is one I would like to read. Practically Perfect is one of the ones I've read and I liked that. Thyme Out is the best one so far for me though.

Pat: No, I don't read many books like this. I picked it up really because I wanted to read some fiction for the Foodie challenge and this one is partly about cooking. I liked the way it dealt with some difficult issues... it was unexpected but sympathetic.

GeraniumCat: I'm definitely going to read more by Katie Fforde. One of the things I like about this challenge is that you can read fiction or non-fiction and I knew when I started it that I wanted to read both. Finding the fiction is not that simple though. Although there is a list of books others have read on the review site. One series I would like to have a go at is the Monsieur Pamplemousse books by Michael Bond but, annoyingly, Devon libraries doesn't have book one. Might have to bite the bullet and buy it.

Nan said...

I used to read KF but then I just couldn't take the sort-of-awful men - often a guy the woman ends up with in the end. That may be a facet of romance writing?? I so wanted to like her work. I really did. I used to love Wild Designs but then that guy thing crept in again. I read it a couple times. I did love her house, her garden, her interesting children. Maybe I shall try another.

Cath said...

Nan: I know exactly what you mean about Fforde's awful men. I wasn't keen on the one in this book either, strikes me his temper is something to be avoided. But there were a lot of other things to like about this book so I am glad I read it. I think her books are 'occasional' reads for me rather than something I want to read all the time, like Miss Read or Alexander McCall Smith.