I’m a big Stella Newman fan. Pear Shaped is one of my favourite novels of all time and Leftovers is up there too. I’m a big fan for a number of reasons: Stella’s witty dialogue, her excellent characterisation (I will always root for a character who would prefer pasta to a salad) and her plotlines, to count but a few. But one of the things Stella truly excels at is giving her readers a fantastic insight into an industry or career that they wouldn’t generally otherwise have. Take her latest read – The Dish, which focuses on the life of Laura Parker, anonymous food critic and divorcee who’s been lying low in love since breaking up with her husband, Dave. Fans of Pear Shaped will remember her as Sophie’s best friend/side kick, and the feisty Miss Klein makes a number of welcome visits in this novel.
But this love story is all about Laura, and her blossoming relationship with Adam Bayley, the head chef at pretentious new restaurant LuxEris. Laura eats at the restaurant before they meet and hates everything – from the ridiculous menu and the high prices to the lurid, tacky décor. She writes a damning review for her publication – The Dish – but she starts to change her mind once she meets and starts dating Adam. He’s a brilliant chef and a master of flavours – surely he couldn’t have been cooking that night? Laura decides to go back and do a re-review, and sure enough the food, this time around, is exquisite. So she decides to change her review – before her first one gets out there and damages Adam’s reputation, and his position at the restaurant. But a snide colleague sabotages her, and suddenly everything starts to fall away – Laura’s beloved boss falls ill, she’s plagued by guilt over the death of her mother, and when Adam finds out who the face of The Dish is, he’s furious with Laura for keeping it a secret. But it’s not as big as the secret he’s keeping…
The Dish is classic Stella at her best: cracking wit, sparkling ripostes and, as always, a protagonist you always want to win. My only complaint is that she doesn’t write fast enough – more books please, Stella!
NB: For fans of Pear Shaped, why not try my version of Sophie Klein’s compost cookies?