Today I am thrilled to be kicking off blog tour for Ellen Berry‚s delicious novel „The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane„. It’s not a secret that Ellen Berry is in fact the highly acclaimed Fiona Gibson, so if you are a fan you know you can expect a lovely, hilarious but also down – to – earth read. And if you don’t know her yet – which I can’t believe! – it’s a great moment to treat yourself to this book. But before you do this, here is a small extract.
In The Beginning …
Of the hundreds of cookbooks in Kitty’s collection, an extraordinary number were dedicated to cooking under difficult circumstances. Meals With One Pan, Dinner For Pennies, The Frugal Hostess, even Cooking Without a Kitchen. At ten years old, Della Cartwright was intimately familiar with her mother’s personal library; she could instantly locate Blancmanges, Jellies and Other Set Desserts, and lay a finger upon Rescuing Kitchen Disasters with no problem at all. She knew, however, that there was no book in the house entitled Rustling Up Dinner When Your Husband Has Left You For Another Woman. Which was precisely what Kitty Cartwright needed right now.
Stillness had settled over the kitchen in Rosemary Cottage. Even the books, which entirely lined every inch of available wall space – promising infinite culinary adventures – looked forlorn. Usually the hub of the house, filled with delicious aromas as Kitty chopped and stirred, the room felt cold and uninviting now. A few shrivelled potatoes sat in the wire rack, and tiny flies drifted around them. The milk was sour in the fridge, and the Victoria sponge Kitty had made over a week ago sat, hard and uninviting, beneath its fluted glass dome. Still in pyjamas at 2.30 p.m., Della skimmed her gaze over the books. They no longer promised treats. They overwhelmed her.
Della’s stomach growled hollowly. Hunger had driven Jeff, her big brother, to his best friend Mick’s house at the end of the lane, whilst Roxanne, the youngest, would occasionally emerge from her bedroom to snatch a Jacob’s cracker or a handful of dry Sugar Puffs from the cupboard. Mostly, though, she remained in her room, styling the synthetic blonde hair of her army of Barbies.
Della, the middle child, had no interest in dolls. She owned a battered old Chopper bike – the one Jeff had outgrown – that she’d cycle through the mushy fallen leaves entirely covering the winding lanes of the small Yorkshire village of Burley Bridge. Mostly, though, she loved to stay indoors and cook. Kitty had never given the impression that she knew what to do with her children – it was as if they had been foisted upon her, forever requiring name tapes to be sewn into clothes, or to be driven en masse to Clark’s in Heathfield for school shoes – but she did seem to appreciate a kitchen assistant. Della had made this her job. Together, mother and daughter would pore over the books. Whilst Kitty took charge in her rather flappy manner, Della would undertake menial tasks: peeling carrots, trimming green beans, and gathering up the eggshells her mother left strewn around in her wake. She felt useful then, as if she belonged.
Della ran her fingers along the spines of the books. What to Cook Today was where her hand stopped. Perhaps she hadn’t known the whole collection after all. She didn’t remember seeing that one before. She pulled it from the shelf and studied its plain brown fabric cover. It was slightly stained and smelled musty, its title almost faded away. There were no pictures inside: just tiny type on mottled yellowing pages and a few scribbled notes in the margins. Della fetched a notebook and pencil and, installed at the well-worn kitchen table, she started to flick through the book.
Potato Soup, she wrote in rounded childish lettering. Roast Chicken. Semolina Pudding. Warm, comforting foods to coax Jeff back from Mick’s and Roxanne away from her Barbies and, most importantly, their mother away from her glass of gin. Della was sensible enough to know Kitty needed to eat, and that gin and tonic didn’t count as real food, even with ice and lemon.
Getting up from the wobbly kitchen chair, Della took an elastic band from the rubbery ball which Kitty, frugal to the last, had made by collecting the ones dropped by the postman, and used it to secure her thick brown hair in a ponytail. Then she lifted her own navy blue apron from the hook on the kitchen door and, aware of the distant chink of ice cubes in a glass, turned back to the chapter entitled Soups and Starters.
And so she began…
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