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.
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.