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In the Kitchen

2.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,392 Ratings  ·  353 Reviews
Monica Ali, nominated for the Man Booker Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, has written a follow-up to Brick Lane that further establishes her as one of England’s most compelling and original voices.

Gabriel Lightfoot, an enterprising man from a northern English mill town, is making good in London. As executive chef at the
Paperback, 448 pages
Published May 11th 2010 by Scribner (first published 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,705)
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Paul Bryant
Nov 23, 2012 Paul Bryant rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I would never want to get all that pally
With the brilliant (and gorgeous) Miss Monica Ali

We’d be dining on oysters on the left bank of the Seine
Or we’d be flying over Bali in her own private plane
And she’d say “Hey, what did you think of In The Kitchen?”
And I’d go hot and cold and my skin would be itchin’
I’d say “Brick Lane was great! Such characterisation!”
She’d say “That smacks of something like tergiversation –
Come, come, what did you think of In The Kitchen?”
And my mouth would go dry and my
May 24, 2009 Stacie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, i-own
Goodreads win!

It is official...I give up. I tried. I kept reading, but I can't go on. I feel bad...I won this. I am a "first reader" and am starting the reviews. But, sadly, I can't give it resounding applause as a book. It felt like it was going nowhere and I got nowhere VERY slowly.

It should be a telling sign for me (who fancies herself a fast reader) that it took 4 days to get only 77 pages in. I just didn't care...I didn't know what I was supposed to care about.
Aug 01, 2009 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This may not be everybody's cup of tea, but I found this story to be at times absolutely excruciating -- and I couldn't put it down.

I got the book on the strength of my great admiration for "Brick Lane," and as a writer and storyteller, Monica Ali continues to be impressive. In this case, her main character goes through a midlife crisis to end all midlife crises, and the critical moments in the book are most likely the manifestations of bipolar disease, from which his mother also suffered.

If tha
May 30, 2011 Lulu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did not, unfortunately, love "Brick Lane" but after enjoying a small slice of kitchen life in Anna Gavalda's "Hunting and Gathering", I was tempted by the title of this book when I found it at a church book sale and thought I should give Ali another try. What I found was a compelling novel about...hmm, how to describe this, contemporary labour in a multicultural commonwealth country, perhaps? Immigration, racist ideologies, the end of industry (textile mills - my next topic for workplace ficti ...more
May 18, 2009 Lauren rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author called it herself when she said, "All plot, no story. Nothing unfolds, everything is forced." which so accurately describes this work.

It started well, with a brilliant character description, "His eyes were pale blue and disreputably alert. His hair, by contrast, he wore with a sharp side part and a fervid rectitude, as if all his phony honor depended on it." I had hoped to see more of this character and his eely slither in the novel. But, as it happened, this was a secondary characte
Carole LoConte Tedesco
I read this with great anticipation, having heard great things about Monica Ali, and having an interest in cooking and what goes on in a professional kitchen. I found the novel brutally disappointing, however, and actually struggled to finish it.

I didn't like Chef Gabriel, and couldn't understand the motivations behind his actions and desires. The characters seemed under-developed and generally unlikable on the whole. Ali's frequent addition of long-winded sociological philosophizing on the par
Yves Gounin
Dec 29, 2013 Yves Gounin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Comme beaucoup, j'avais adoré le premier livre de Monica Ali "Brick Lane" (bizarrement traduit en français "Sept mers et treize rivières")
Aussi avais-je offert à ma veille Maman son second "En cuisine", espérant que cette cuisinière émérite s'intéresserait aux entrelacs complexes de cette romancière post-coloniale.
Bien mal m'en pris ! J'ai retrouvé durant les fêtes dans la bibliothèque parentale ce gros livre avec un marque-page coincé à la page 100, témoignage manifeste du manque de perspicacit
i found Brick Lane breathtaking, and if anyone is deciding whether or not to read Brick Lane based on this book, i really think they should reconsider, if for no other reason that they are so different, they could be written by different authors. they really should be judged independently.

i would finish this book if i were reading it at another time. but this is not a good time for me to slog through a writer's experiment with a genre she -- it seems to me -- doesn't quite inhabit. what monica a
May 28, 2009 Megan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Megan by: Goodreads
Shelves: own, first-reads
*Whew* I feel better after reading some of the other reviews. I, too, won this from Godoreads and I really wanted to like it. I like cooking, I like chefs, I like mysteries...wait a second, it's not a mystery? For some reason I thought it was a mystery. Ok, that's ok, it's not a mystery, so it's who are bipolar? Restaurant kitchens? Cancer? The illegal trade of people in London? Prostitutes? Childhood memories? The mills closing in England? I mean, there are so many stories g ...more
Nov 20, 2014 Melissa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, what a snooze. The main character is a reprehensible bore, and really, for a book entitled In the Kitchen, shouldn't there be more scenes in the kitchen? Instead of in this guy's apartment where he molests a teenage sex slave's feet? Instead of wandering the streets on London with a member of Parliament, droning on & on about politics? Instead of in this guy's head, witnessing his creepy & plot-pointless dream? I think I was expecting some sort of mystery-tinged Kitchen Confidential, ...more
May 07, 2009 Kirsty rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kirsty by: another freebie from Waterstones!!
I wanted to like this book, I really did. After all the hype over Brick Lane A Novel (which incidentally I own but haven't read yet - that'll be moved down my TBR list!) I was expecting great things from this book. It was not as I had expected.

So what was good about it? Well the characterisation was top notch. Of the main character anyway. We don't really get to learn much about the supporting cast. Gabe was a very complex character, and Ali managed to capture this well. I did feel like I knew h
Apr 12, 2009 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Executive chef Gabriel Lightfoot runs the kitchen of the Imperial Hotel in London. He is under constant pressure to juggle the demands of the hotel management whilst secretly attempting to set up in business on his own. His kitchen staff consists of weird and wonderful characters from all over the world, he also has the added pressure of worrying about his Dad, back up north and dying from cancer.

When one of the hotel porters is found dead in the basement, Gabe's world starts to unravel drastica
Jan 09, 2010 Ruth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Monica Ali’s Brick Lane a few years ago, didn’t feel it lived up to its hype. Therefore when I saw this book on the New Books shelf at the library, I almost didn’t pick it up. I’m glad curiosity got the better of me.

This was one of those I-can’t-put-it-downers. Gabriel is a chef, making good in his first high-rent restaurant in a fancy hotel. It’s a high stress job, what with all the various nationalities and personalities represented in his kitchen, some of them legal immigrants, some no
Bookmarks Magazine
"In the Kitchen, Ali's third novel, received mixed reviews from critics who couldn't help but compare it to the brilliant Brick Lane. Interestingly, although American critics found much to reprove -- including an exasperatingly slow start, stereotypical characters, and a surfeit of moralizing that drains the narrative of momentum -- they also praised Ali's crackling, vibrant prose and her meticulous research into the inner workings of restaurant kitchens. British critics, on the other hand, unif ...more
I finally finished In the Kitchen yesterday, and I have mixed feelings about it. I started off loving the descriptions of the hotel kitchen operation, but couldn't understand the main character's dislike of certain people. I didn't like him very much, which made it hard for me. I don't always have to like a character, but I want to feel the motivations, even if I don't agree with them. It was hard for me to get a handle on his choices, and his actions. Eventually, gradually, the reader understan ...more
Richard Forsythe
Jul 11, 2011 Richard Forsythe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was beautifully written. The author creates an absorbing decline into madness as the chef loses his grip on reality. Monica Ali cleverly gets the reader to invest in the protagonist's blossoming future, his own restaurant, his forthcoming marriage and the reader then shares his inexorable decline into helplessness. From a personal point of view I did not entirely buy into his obsession with Lena. men are simple creatures and when given a way out (the payment of money for the sin of illi ...more
Sara floerke
The more I read the more uncomfortable I became.

I picked up this book because this author is featured by Talking Volumes, Minnesota Public Radio's literature spot. It traces the downfall of a chef in modern London. Learning about the multicultural flavor of London was an eye opener. I knew a little bit about it, but I enjoyed stepping into it via someone else's shoes.

The protaganist suffers from bi-polar disorder and every chapter he just kept making more and more a mess of his life. I got to t
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Alex Roberts
There's hardly a spot where In the Kitchen is not what might be considered well written; however, despite that and a promising plot, the characters and narrative never seem to coalesce. There are moments of interesting insights, as well as top notch descriptive work, and the pace picks up in the final quarter, but a basic problem is the essentially murky nature of the lead character, Chef Gabe Lightfoot. Not charming rogue, grating blowhard or impassioned artisan, he's a confused composition of ...more

To be fair I was listening to the audioversion. The first 2 discs were fine but the third disc was blank/nonfunctional and the 4th disc badly scratched. That said, the story neither caught nor interested me in the portion I heard. Most mysteries ensnare you enough to at least wonder about the murderer. Not so this one. Gabriel is a self-centered character who I doubt will grow endearing. His self-interest over-rides everyone else's welfare. When the audiversions are scratched or damaged in somew
Aug 23, 2009 Angela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Let me preface this by saying I think Ms. Ali writes beautifully.

With that said, all I can say when I finished this book was "I'm so glad I'm done with that". There are so many reasons not to finish this book. Unfortunately, once I start one, I feel the need to finish it. This book was a drag, and many times I just thought "ugh". The characters are not likeable at all, and there's no reason to enjoy the reasons they aren't likeable.

I have not read "Brick Lane" but plan on it. I do hope it is be
Jun 29, 2009 Jeff rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Monica Ali is, quite simply, one of those critically acclaimed authors I just don't "get." I found "Brick Lane" pretty forgettable and I felt her newest book, "In The Kitchen," was forced, uninteresting, and clunky.

In “Kitchen,” Ali layers subplot upon subplot and quirky character upon quirky character in such heavy-handed style that the novel crushes under its own weight. It tries to be and do so much that it ultimately is and does nothing. I really wanted to like this book, but found myself wa
Aug 19, 2014 Kalika rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Potentially good ideas of exploring national identity through work-life, personal-life, and family-life. In a way, similar to what she did in The Brick Lane. Just doesn't work that well here. Too many distractions, too many ideas; there is the setting of a Hotel Kitchen that we have become all too familiar with thanks to TV and (in)famous Celebrity Chefs, there is human trafficking, there is the nostalgia for the fading away of the "Old Britain", there is manic depression, a kinda of love-story ...more
Dora Okeyo
Mar 29, 2014 Dora Okeyo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I should slap Monica Ali for testing my patience with this book- but that would not happen because I love her books and writing style.

Reading this book was a chore! It's taken me almost a month to complete it because of how boring the first 172 pages were! I mean, Monica- really? You pulled off Brick Lane and Alentejo Blue only to bore me with this one!

This story is about Gabriel Lightfoot (Gabe, an executive chef at a Hotel, his life is muddled and he dreams of setting up his own restaurant. Hi
Heather Null
Nov 15, 2009 Heather Null rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I started this book, I assumed it would be a kitchen-inspired murder mystery. Instead, it focuses on the unraveling of the main character's sanity. Few books really capture the essence of mental illness, but this one brings the reader deep into the workings of a troubled mind.
Oct 26, 2009 Mundi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I must admit I did not finish this book, heck I only got about 1/3 into it, but after 129 pages I did not care about any of the characters - especially the main character - and did not have any interest in finding out what happened to them.
Oct 13, 2015 Keryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: human-drama
I would give this book a 5 just for the pure skill of Ali's writing. At times I reread a paragraph only to enjoy the way she creates word pictures and describes scenes and people. She describes a kitchen table in an entire paragraph, wrapping all the chefs childhood memories into that piece of furniture. I was a bit deterred by the negative reviews I read before embarking on this read, but looking back I am of the opinion that perhaps only those who have experienced some serious burnout can appr ...more
Apr 02, 2014 Maggie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I almost didn't finish this, but kept going to the end because I remember enjoying Brick Lane a lot. In the Kitchen, however, was pretty underwhelming. The first half was a hot mess- unfocused, meandering, and infuriatingly slow. If you stick with it, you'll eventually find what the author was trying to say in this extremely subtle portrait of the today's British society, where the older, more traditional generation is coming to grips with today's multicultural society. There are a few glimmers ...more
The Cats Mother
Sue brought this to Book Club saying she'd given up on it, no one else wanted it, and Ali's supposed to be a good writer so I figured I'd give it a go at some stage. I'm trying to clear the BC pile so decided to try it, in the full expectation of then being able to abandon it, especially since the majority of reviewers here say they didn't finish it.
With such low expectations, I found it wasn't that bad, and I do like her writing, so I did carry on, passing the point of no return (ie had to see
Mar 07, 2012 Lesley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Briefly- hard to get into at the beginning, really enjoyable & sympathetically written in the middle & a disappointing end.

The novel was too London-centric for my liking (imagine not knowing the distance between 2 stops on the Tube!) & some parts felt almost forced (too many secondary characters were ill-used).
My favourite characters were the beautifully sketched Lightfoot family, who felt instantly recognizable (although that may say more about me than Monica Ali's abilities as a w
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Monica Ali is a British writer of Bangladeshi origin. She is the author of Brick Lane, her debut novel, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2003. Ali was voted Granta's Best of Young British Novelists on the basis of the unpublished manuscript.

She lives in South London with her husband, Simon Torrance, a management consultant. They have two children, Felix (born 1999) and
More about Monica Ali...

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“Gabe, did you pray?'

'Sort of.'

'Me too. Do you believe?'

'No. Do you?'


'I don't believe,' said Gabriel, 'But I have faith, if you know what I mean.'

'What in?'

'I don't know, life, carrying on, I suppose.'

More quotes…