This is a beautifully written book on love, grief and how life-shattering events often make you reflect on your own life. I had the privilege of meeting Olivia at a book signing event and she is a witty, incredibly smart and funny person…but I digress!
The book begins with Olivia, a soon to be fully qualified barrister, cooking for a man she has recently met. She then receives a call that turns her life upside down. It is her dad and he is calling to tell her that her mum had died unexpectedly. I don’t think I am spoiling the book for you as the death is announced in the first few pages.
Olivia describes that moment with incredible talent, and I cried my eyes out even though the detail was very matter of fact. I guess you always imagine yourself in such a situation, doing something mundane like Olivia was, with no idea of what is about to happen at any moment.
After the funeral, Olivia turns to cooking to help her deal with her grief. She is very candid about the fact that she has never been the greatest cook, not because she was bad at it but simply because she didn’t have the time. But one day she goes to the grocery store and picks a few ingredients to bake a fish pie. As she prepares the ingredients and starts the recipe, Olivia can feel her pain easing a little for the first time since her mum’s untimely death.
Olivia also begins to question her current career in law. Her father, mother and grandfather were all lawyers; law is in her blood. When I met her, she said she knew from a very young age that she wanted to become a lawyer but after the death of her mother she started to wonder if this really was the right path for her.
As someone with a legal background who is now pursuing an entirely different type of career, I caught myself nodding at almost everything she was writing. There is a passage in the book where a judge criticises Olivia for “wearing her heart on her sleeve” and this felt like a turning point for her. Olivia takes us through the coping mechanism she had to develop which banned any type of strong emotion because she thought showing any type of emotion would be weak. The British “stiff upper lip” culture is a prominent theme in this book.
There was another instance in the book that I completely related with. It was when Olivia meets up her barrister friends and can feel the excitement they have for their career. Their excitement only highlights the doubts she is feeling for her career as a barrister.
After the death of her mother she gets a little inheritance which allows her to enrol at The Cordon Bleu school. I absolutely loved her account on the behind the scenes of such a prestigious institution and I must say her depiction of the French is spot on!
The extra bonus in this book is the inclusion of Olivia’s amazing recipes. I have already tried her la crème anglaise and fish pie recipes and they are delicious.
Overall it is a great read that reaffirmed for me the power of love, what loss can teach us, and the silver linings to be found in the life-shattering events that will happen to all of us.
Rating: 5 out of 5