• Miss Eliza's English Kitchen

  • A Novel of Victorian Cookery and Friendship
  • By: Annabel Abbs
  • Narrated by: Ell Potter, Bianca Amato
  • Length: 11 hrs and 10 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (602 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Chosen as one of the season's best historical fiction novels by the New York Times

Good Housekeeping Book Club Pick for November!

A Country Living Best Book of Fall!

A Washington Post Best Feel-Good Book of the Year!

In a novel perfect for fans of Hazel Gaynor’s A Memory of Violets and upstairs-downstairs stories, Annabel Abbs, the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, returns with the brilliant real-life story of Eliza Acton and her assistant as they revolutionized British cooking and cookbooks around the world.

Before Mrs. Beeton and well before Julia Child, there was Eliza Acton, who changed the course of cookery writing forever.

England, 1835. London is awash with thrilling new ingredients, from rare spices to exotic fruits. But no one knows how to use them. When Eliza Acton is told by her publisher to write a cookery book instead of the poetry she loves, she refuses - until her bankrupt father is forced to flee the country. As a woman, Eliza has few options. Although she’s never set foot in a kitchen, she begins collecting recipes and teaching herself to cook. Much to her surprise, she discovers a talent - and a passion - for the culinary arts.

Eliza hires young, destitute Ann Kirby to assist her. As they cook together, Ann learns about poetry, love, and ambition. The two develop a radical friendship, breaking the boundaries of class while creating new ways of writing recipes. But when Ann discovers a secret in Eliza’s past and finds a voice of her own, their friendship starts to fray.

Based on the true story of the first modern cookery writer, Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen is a spellbinding novel about female friend­ship, the struggle for independence, and the transcendent pleasures and solace of food.

©2021 Annabel Abbs (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Miss Eliza's English Kitchen

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  • Overall
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A gem!

I rarely write reviews, but the brilliance of this novel about a Victorian would-be poet turned cookery writer compels me to action. My library is extensive, and this one resides near the top. Abbs delves into Eliza Acton's soul--as a writer, chef, and woman--in a way that is moving and timeless. Abbs's writing is masterful, and the narration is superb. Highly recommended!

8 people found this helpful

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How Food Connects Two Very Different Women

I like books on food history and cooking, so this novel was an easy choice. I've vaguely heard of Eliza Acton's cookery book before but never knew she was a poet too. And this book draws on that love of poetry; the story flows nicely and with rich descriptions of cooking and people. I like how the story was also told from the two viewpoints, which allowed Ann's innocence and lack of confidence to grow while Eliza struggles to find a sense of purpose in a world where she's expected to behave in a traditional way.

I did like Ann's story best; Eliza is at times annoyingly blind and that is often to Ann's detriment. It's a sign of class differences but Eliza also admits toward the end how she willingly chose not to look at hard or ugly things. Only working with Ann forced her to realize her privileged life. I also found it annoying how Eliza never tells her thoughts to Ann, so it's not until late does Ann realize Eliza wants her to be credited in the book. It would have saved some trouble or cleared some misunderstandings if Eliza was open to Ann (though I guess class was the reason for that; you didn't speak your feelings to servants if you were middle to upperclass).

Ell Potter and Bianca Amato were good narrators. Eliza sounded passionate and stubborn while Ann sounded earnest but shy, just as you would expect them. I also forgot Eli Potter read Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell, which I also enjoyed, so I can say I've enjoyed her work in two books.

I will say, though, that the description is misleading since the "secret" that supposedly tears them apart isn't of much consequence and is only spoken of in the epilogue. You do learn about Eliza's "secret" that's explained in the two chapters before that and hinted too, but it's misleading in the description since it implies that's a major plot point.

Also - Spoilers for that section I mentioned- it was rumored that Eliza Acton had an illegitimate child but never confirmed. And as literary drama goes, I found it less interesting than Eliza and Ann gaining confidence in the kitchen. Probably the book could have been fine without it.

If you like luscious descriptions of food and how two women strive to defy the roles set out by their social classes, check this out!

6 people found this helpful

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Just what I needed

A good story with a few twists to entertain. simple people who are living life. Bianca Amato is on of the best narrtors .

4 people found this helpful

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A storyline showing a bit of the plight of women of their time

I didn’t want to miss a moment of this novel. I listened to this audiobook as I drove doing errands. While doing chores at home they were ever so much more tolerable so due to this story. If I found my mind having to be more focused in traffic or on what I was was doing at home I shut it off and backtracked to the previous chapter so so I wouldn’t miss a bit. I loved this lyrical story and the two main characters who grew stronger as women and became unlikely friends over time.

4 people found this helpful

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One of the best audiobooks to date

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The narration is on point and the storyline really spoke to me. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

2 people found this helpful

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ABSOLUTE JOY!!!

I love to cook and this was so much fun to read /listen to and inspired me to stretch my skills!!

2 people found this helpful

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Beautiful story

This book is about everything that is important in day to day life - dreams, stamina, dedication, sadness in life, hard choices, relationships in families, friendship and above all its about food and the enjoyment of good cookery and well prepared food. Beautifuly written and performed. Maybe I'm a bit tired of all the dosens of books about the bravery of men and women at war time, but I was very glad to find such a story about domestic life with their day to day straggling and victories. Very much recommended.

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Not good

Narration is excellent. Far fetched, starts with person who has never cooked and suddenly she teaches herself to cook. I understand this is fiction ,however there should have be more time spent before Miss Eliza goes from an upper class English lady to a self taught cook. Narration was excellent

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I really enjoyed this

such a pleasant listen, good reader, nice writing. I look forward to seeing the copy of her cookbook at UNC next time I go, if it is still there.

1 person found this helpful

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Great book

I really enjoyed this book
the narration was wonderful and the storyline kept my interest. I will probably listen to it again.

1 person found this helpful