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 A British first novel, an overripe plum of nostalgia and romance set in WW II England, that's something of a novelty item, containing as it does several wartime recipes that are fun to peruse, a bit tricky to carry out. Belle Morton, childless and disillusioned with marriage, decides to buy a lace-glove tea-restaurant and transform it into the ``Victory Cafe,'' where good food may be had even in wartime. It's a wizard success (British slang of the period abounds) and counts among its employees: mean Connie, who does the Victory out of deserved honors; young Wyn; and Wyn's best friend, Dorrie, she of the lovely singing voice and the awful parents of severe religious convictions. Then love comes to Dorrie in the person of a black American serviceman by the name of Lucky, one of three buddies who are welcomed to the cafÇ in spite of threats from a lethal white-supremacist sergeant. Later, the three GIs are entertained by the cafÇ's perennial upstairs tenant, Mrs. Renee Oblonsky, nicknamed ``Prin''; Dorrie launches a singing career; Lucky is killed, thanks to vicious persecution; and Dorrie discovers she's pregnant. It's Prin to the rescue--or is her solution the worst thing Prin could have done? And what of Belle with her Australian lover? Did she do what was right? At the close, in present time, there's a reunion between Belle and Dorrie, allowing the women to reconcile themselves with the past. The characters are elementary; the dialect at times lies heavy, heavy (From Lucky: ``Yer voice make me tremble when I hear it singin' in ma head''). As for the recipes: ``elderflowers'' may be a shade difficult to find, and items like ``national flour'' need research; but the names are delightful (``Shropshire Fidget Pie''?). Slight but harmless.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-13954-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1995