For years, Elza has gotten by. A divorcee out of culinary school, she started her own little restaurant in the mid-size Hungarian city of Delibab, and she’s grown a decent business, cooking quality versions of Hungarian classics and serving them with a smile. But lately her smile has gotten tired. Her loveless affair with her sous-chef has become an irritation. She’s getting sick of the same old dishes and the same old customers. And in these nascent years of capitalism, it will take some competition - both personal and professional - to make her see that her restaurant, and her happiness, are worth fighting for.
Marc Fitten fell in love with Hungary after years spent living there, and his second novel is a celebration of its culture and cuisine, as well as a portrait of a woman and her country in transition.
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About the Author
Marc Fitten was born in Brooklyn and lived in Hungary from 1993-1998. He is the former editor of the Chattahoochee Review and of the Red Hen Press Literary Translation series. Marc Fitten's first novel, Valeria's Last Stand, was published in six countries. He lives in Atlanta.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Marc Fitten's latest book follows the title's character, Elza, as she prepares her restaurant for a visit from a prominent food critic. Elza's convinced that this visit and the recognition she is sure to receive are just what her restaurant needs to lift itself and her from middle-age doldrums. This theme of women facing the challenges of aging will be familiar to readers of Fitten's first book, Valeria's Last Stand. As in his earlier book, the time and place are post-communist Hungary. Just as the nation is energized by the financial opportunity and growth brought by capitalism, the characters in this novel each embrace change in their own way but not always according to plan. Fitten does a wonderful job of providing the internal dialogue of several characters, letting us see their struggle from different points of view. The tale is tightly written and a quick read. However, since I have no real knowledge of the region or it's struggles after the fall of communism, I wish that Fitten spent more time telling readers about Hungary's people, landscape, and political struggles. He chose to place both his novels in Hungary, but the tales could well be located in any country facing economic change. I highly recommend Elza's Kitchen to readers looking for a small, well-written book by a new author. Like eating in an upscale restaurant, however, you may wish the portions were just a bit bigger.