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A new (French) review of The Heat of the Kitchen

As you probably know, The Heat of the Kitchen is a story about a little town in Provence which only exists in my imagination, so I find it particularly interesting when French people pass comments on it.

I received recently a review from a very old friend indeed. His name is Michel Rabinovitch, and he was my very first French Exchange partner, back in 1948, when I spent most of the summer holidays in his company. I saw him again just once, in about 1961, I think, and then not again until September 2014, when my wife and I spent a weekend with him and his wife in the very same house where we stayed 66 years ago!

OK, it’s not an independent review, coming from a friend, but it is especially interesting because it is written by a Frenchman and is a commentary on my portrayal of aspects of life in a country which is his, not mine, and also because his comments on that aspect of my writing echo independent reviews from French people (or English people living in France) which have appeared on Amazon.

[An English translation follows the French text.]

J’ai terminé The Heat of the Kitchen, et je peux dire que ce livre m’a bien amusé ! Comment as-tu fait pour savoir ce qui se tramait dans le conseil municipal d’une petite ville ? Il a bien fallu que tu y sois impliqué ! Je sais qu’un étranger (de l’Union européenne, bien entendu) peut faire partie d’un conseil municipal, mais je pense que c’est encore très rare. En tout cas, tu n’as rien exagéré, au contraire ! Il est des municipalités où les conseillers et le maire sont avides non seulement de pouvoir, mais aussi de fric, par exemple Bobigny, au NE de Paris, où le maire s’est octroyé un salaire de 4500 euros (à la limite de la légalité), tout en continuant à toucher son allocation chômage. Bon prince, il a fait bénéficier une bonne partie de ses conseillers d’un salaire à peu près équivalent…

Tes personnages sont très vivants et, bien que très, très loin d’être des anges, ils ne sont pas vraiment antipathiques (sauf le commissaire). Ton plan de déblocage de la circulation est tout à fait intéressant et réalisable. Il est d’ailleurs en partie utilisé dans maintes villes d’art en Italie. Mais, décidément, que tes héroïnes sont machiavéliques ! Elles rappellent Arlette, dans ton premier roman. Crois-moi, en France il y a des femmes à la fois plus simples et plus fidèles…

J’attends avec impatience ton prochain roman !

[I’ve finished The Heat of the Kitchen, and I can tell you that I enjoyed this book very much! How did you manage to find out the sort of things that go on in the Council of a little (French) town? You must have been involved yourself somehow! I know that it is possible for a foreigner (of EU origin, of course) to be elected as a member of a town council, but I believe it doesn’t very often happen. Anyway, your account is in no way overstated – on the contrary! There are little towns where local councillors and mayors are greedy, not only for power, but also for cash: in Bobigny, for instance, north-east of Paris, where the Mayor received the maximum legal salary of 4,500 euros a month and claimed Unemployment Benefit at the same time! Being a benevolent prince, he managed to fix it so that a good number of his councillors benefited in similar fashion…

Your characters are very life-like and, although far from being angels, they are also far from being unlikeable (except for the  Police Chief). Your solution for dealing with the town’s traffic  jams is at once interesting and practicable – in fact you will find similar schemes in some towns in Italy. But I have to say your female characters are Machiavellian! They remind me of Arlette in your first novel (Before the Swallow Dares). Take my word for it, there are women in France who are more straightforward and more faithful!

I’m really looking forward to your next novel!]

About Tony Whelpton

I am an English novelist, and not one of the youngest you'll find around, although I'm both physically and mentally a lot younger than my Birth Certificate shows, and I live in Cheltenham, in the Cotswolds, a beautiful area of the South-West of England. In an earlier existence which seems to be a lifetime ago, I taught French in a university, and for many years I wrote books  designed to help people who were trying to learn French - many published through a company called TD Publications which I founded myself. I closed that business in 2008 when I was 75, thinking that it was time to retire and lead a quiet life. But then I started writing fiction and suddenly realised that this is what I should have started doing long ago, and here I am, six years later, with three successful novels to my name and still actively writing! The first, Before the Swallow Dares, was published in 2012, the second, The Heat of the Kitchen, came out in 2013, and they were followed by the most recent, Billy's War, in 2014. If you didn't believe what was said above about being younger than my years, three novels in just over two years ought to convince you!


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