2013 Recommended books

The Mouseproof Kitchen by Saira Shah

The Mouseproof Kitchen

Five words from the blurb: baby, disabled, motherhood, France, cookery

The Mouseproof Kitchen is a searingly honest book about the mixed emotions experienced by parents when they have a disabled child. The book begins with Anna giving birth to Freya, a baby with profound disabilities. Freya will never be able to walk or talk like ‘normal’ children and is plagued by a series of medical problems. Confused and upset Anna persuades her husband, Toby, to move to France in order to escape their claustrophobic city life. The dilapidated house they purchase on a whim takes their mind off Freya’s problems initially, but the emotional turmoil builds as Anna and Toby battle with their shattered expectations of parenthood.

The characters and emotions in this book were so vividly described that most of the time I felt as though I was reading an autobiography. Saira Shah has a child with cerebral palsy and it is clear she has put much of her personal experience into this novel. The honesty and complexity of the emotions were insightful and never became sentimental. I’m sure they’ll give comfort to anyone who has experienced something similar.

The writing was thought provoking throughout and it raised interesting questions about modern parenting and the role of the disabled in society. I found myself highlighting numerous passages and I’m sure I’ll be thinking about the issues involved for a long time to come.

I listen to the rough rasp of her breathing, wondering what I’ll do if the breathing stops. In some ways, it would be the easiest thing. In other ways, unbearable. We lie, the baby and I, in this womb of a bed and hide from the outside world. 

The book also contained wonderful descriptions of France – giving glimpses into everything from the problems of renovating houses there, to the joy of preserving figs and cherries. The food aspects of the book were particularly interesting to me and I loved reading detailed descriptions of various traditional French recipes. 

As you can tell, I loved this book. Some might complain that there were too many coincidences, but I was so wrapped up in the lives of these wonderfully drawn characters that I didn’t care. I highly recommend The Mouseproof Kitchen to anyone who enjoys reading about realistic characters battling with complex emotional issues.


11 replies on “The Mouseproof Kitchen by Saira Shah”

Judith, I’d not heard of her before, but her bio says shes a “journalist and documentary filmmaker”. Perhaps you’ve seen one of her documentaries? I’ll be keeping an eye out for her in future though 🙂

Sounds like a very interesting book Jackie. I always feel a pang of guilt ( not quite the right word) when books with a difficult subject matter appeal to me….. Besides the Sea, A view On The Way Down, The Son by Michel Rostain etc . To me the author’s name rang a bell too so I googled her, makes the book even more interesting.
PS. My 15 year old heard me Dictating into my Siri and asked if you were better. Sweet.
I had told him about your heart and your break form blogging.

Ifi, It is lovely to hear that your 15 year old is thinking of me. I’m feeling much better this week and will hopefully get to the bottom of my problems soon.

I know what you mean about feeling guilty for liking books with a difficult subject matter, This one is a lot lighter in tone than the others you mention – there’s no need to get the tissues out! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as the others 🙂


First, so glad to hear you are feeling a bit better. I hope they find the issue and you are good as new soon.

I liked this book a lot — so was happy to see your favorable review. Your cover was much nicer than the US one.

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