Elza’s Kitchen by Marc Fitten appears initially to be a simple tale of a successful women in her middle years becoming disillusioned with her life. It follows Elza an attractive petite woman in her late 40’s and owner of the only good restaurant in a small Hungarian town. She is in a fairly loveless relationship with her young sous chef which shortly ends badly because she refuses to marry him. She is dissatisfied with her success and has plans to win a coveted prize and she hatches a plot to lure a critic whose regular column she follows to this end. Elza is definitely the protagonist of this book but it also follows the lives of the Sous Chef, Dora the pastry chef and the critic.
I first discovered Marc Fitten with his first novel Valeria’s Last Stand about an older woman having a final stab at romance. He really does have the feel for the characterization of an older woman and all of his people in both these books feel quite substantial and real.
Also contained within is a fabulous informal recipe for chicken paprika. There are various twists and turns and not the plot is not without setbacks but overall the book left me smiling. There are several wildly funny moments but generally it is a gentle flow to a satisfying ending.
Title and author Elza’s Kitchen by Marc Fitten