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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

The Antique Chef by Kayleen M. Hazlehurst

This was not a book I expected to enjoy. I’m one of those readers who is motivated to pick up a book by the design of the cover; and this cover, with its comic-book style menagerie, did not spell out – to me, at least – pick me up and read me. But enjoy it I did. And later on, I began to wonder if I had missed the point of the cover, and that perhaps the sheer variety of colourful animals depicted on it, is designed to be a deeper metaphor for the book itself, which is about colourful and highly individual people.

It’s a light, easy, and undemanding read which does not speak down to the reader, and yet which covers some fairly hefty topics. Let me just say this: it would not be on the shelves of a library in Florida right now, because the hero is cross-dresser. I say hero; but perhaps I should say heroine, and more correctly that she is a cross dresser. Again, I could say ‘they’ cross dress. But none of these would be strictly correct because Lewis, a cross dresser from childhood, is also Louise, and he/she/they switch characters, garments and occupations throughout the book, in a way that seems entirely sensible and appropriate to each situation.

Lewis is a former financial adviser with a successful career and a broken marriage behind him. He decides to begin again, this time in a small country town where he is also known by his alternative self: Louise. Louise runs a successful cafe which also sells vintage clothing. Lewis is a part-time sleuth, and it is these unique mysteries which form the chapters of the book. Of course there is a thread that binds the stories together and it is this back story which keeps the reader engrossed to the end.

A few things pulled me up along the way. As always, blame the editor in me, but I cannot help but see errors which jump from the page of a book or text written by someone else. I wish this was always true of my own work... but then that’s what sub-editors and editors are for. And every writer needs one. The other thing that slightly discombobulated me was the 90s setting which in some ways seems too recent to be writing about. But then I need to remind myself that the furniture and bric a brac made a mere decade before in the 1980s, is now considered retro.

But I really did love the characters, and I loved the underlying theme of this book which is more current than ever: we are all gloriously different and we all deserve to live the lives we choose without fear or predjudice.

Reviewer: Peta Stavelli

The CopyPress


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