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The Mouse-Proof Kitchen: A Novel
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The Mouse-Proof Kitchen: A Novel

5.0 2
by Saira Shah

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“A journey of the heart…Shah writes with sensuous passion” (The New York Times Book Review).

When Anna, a chef by profession, discovers she’s pregnant, she prepares to leave dreary London behind and move to idyllic Provence, France, with her husband, Tobias, and her lovable baby-to-be. But she’s suddenly forced to reevaluate


“A journey of the heart…Shah writes with sensuous passion” (The New York Times Book Review).

When Anna, a chef by profession, discovers she’s pregnant, she prepares to leave dreary London behind and move to idyllic Provence, France, with her husband, Tobias, and her lovable baby-to-be. But she’s suddenly forced to reevaluate her dreams when their baby is born less than perfect. Little do Anna and Tobias know that the change in plans sparked by Freya’s birth is the beginning of an incredible journey of the heart. Along the way, they discover that there truly is no such thing as a mouse-proof kitchen, and though life sometimes gets a little messy, it’s the messy bits that give it meaning.

The couple and their new daughter end up in a vermin-infested farmhouse in a remote town in France—far from the mansion in Provence they’d originally imagined. Their rickety home is falling down around them, the village is involved in a decades-old trauma, and even the charms of the region’s lavender fields and a budding romance between two of their young neighbors can’t distract from the fact that Freya’s hospital stays are becoming frighteningly frequent. Anna must draw on reserves of strength she never knew she had just to keep going from day to day. But will it be enough to keep her family together—and her daughter safe?

Told with “the most pitch-perfect, radiant prose” (New York Times bestselling author Marisa de los Santos), The Mouse-Proof Kitchen is a moving and thought-provoking story about how the best parts of life are often the most complicated.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Fernanda Eberstadt
In The Storyteller's Daughter, Shah managed to impart a wry humor to her war-zone encounters with gun runners, spies and preening tribal rulers. Humor in The Mouse-Proof Kitchen becomes a still more anarchically life-affirming response to disaster. What might well, as the author has acknowledged in interviews, have been a "misery memoir" is instead a gutsy recital of all the wildly inappropriate jokes, crockery smashing, extramarital dalliances and unheroic efforts to escape child care in which two terminally stressed-out parents can indulge.
Publishers Weekly
Shah’s debut gets off to a slow start, but patient readers will be rewarded by this richly textured drama. Londoners Anna and Tobias’s daughter Freya is born with cerebral palsy, greatly complicating their dream of moving to Provence, France, to open a restaurant and compose music. Deeply conflicted, Anna and Tobias make a mad grab at happiness and buy a crumbling farmhouse in Languedoc. There, they care for Freya in a landscape of extremes, with neighbors to match, including Lizzy, a free-spirited American teenager; Ludovic, the tenant farmer who dwells on the French Resistance; Julien, living off the grid in a tree house; and Yvonne, the cafe owner who makes delicious sausages. Mysterious newcomer Kerim arrives to fix up the rundown property, and Anna’s mother comes to stay, rounding out the ragtag family. As Freya’s health declines steeply, Anna feels herself drifting apart from Tobias, each of them enclosed in a private sphere of misery until disaster strikes, forcing exhausted Anna to either accept her new imperfect life or leave to start anew. Portraying the complexities of marriage, motherhood, family, and life in a strange land, Shah (director of Death in Gaza, a documentary film) combines tragedy and humor into a satisfying tale of love, heartbreak, and transformation. Agent: Patrick Walsh, Conville & Walsh (U.K.). (July)
Library Journal
Hard-working, London-based restaurant chef Anna has two life goals—to become a mother and to move to Provence in southeastern France to teach in her mentor’s cooking school. Motherhood arrives, but Anna’s daughter is born with profound physical and mental handicaps. After Provence proves to be too expensive for their modest budget, Anna and her partner, Tobias, are persuaded to purchase a crumbling estate in the less popular Languedoc region. A never-ending series of medical crises puts an enormous strain on a relationship already troubled by house problems. Every attempt to mouseproof the kitchen so that Anna can open her own cooking school fails miserably, as the mice turn out to be king-sized rats.

Verdict London-based journalist Shah debuts with a highly entertaining novel whose bucolic setting and eccentric neighbors hint at Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. But while Mayle’s problems were humorously scalable, Anna’s prove nearly insurmountable. Be careful what you wish for. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/13.]—Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
Hovering somewhere between chick-lit–ish comedy and heartbreak, this is the tale of a British couple moving, with their first child, born severely disabled, to a run-down farmhouse in a wild corner of France. London-based chef Anna and composer Tobias respond differently to the birth of their mentally and physically challenged daughter, Freya. Anna is consumed with love while Tobias doesn't even want the baby to come home. The deal they strike is to relocate to Les Rajons, a wrecked, remote but scenic French estate, bringing Freya with them. Les Rajons is a domestic nightmare: dirty, neglected, rat-infested. Yet Tobias and Anna settle in, adding some quirky characters to their awkward family, like free spirit Julien, who lives in a tree, and mysterious but angelic Kerim, who repairs the house at no charge. While Anna deals with the chaos by imposing order in the kitchen and Tobias embarks on a film score, the tone can seem light, but there are dark episodes too alongside the interminable stress and complicated emotions of caring for a child who will never develop or recognize her parents. Crises come and go, and over time, both parents learn lessons in love and responsibility. Although it follows a conventional makeover format, Shah's readable debut, drawn in part from personal experience, touches deeper, less predictable notes.
New York Times bestselling author of Love Walked In, Belong to Me, and Falling Together - Marisa de los Santos
While I’m tempted to call THE MOUSE-PROOF KITCHEN an unflinching depiction of parenthood, that wouldn’t be right. It flinches plenty, just as it weeps, laughs, rages, despairs, and sings for joy—all in the most pitch-perfect, radiant prose. Read it. Just read it.

Product Details

Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

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The Mouse-Proof Kitchen

  • Meet the Author

    Saira Shah has won three Emmys for her films Unholy War, Beneath the Veil, and Death in Gaza. She has also written an autobiography, The Storyteller’s Daughter. Saira retired from filmmaking in 2003 and divides her time between the UK and France.

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    The Mouse-Proof Kitchen 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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