AVID cook Maggie Johnson and her fiance planned to open a small country hotel. But that was before the war and now Maggie’s running the canteen in a radio factory, making do as best she can with limited rations and an unsympathetic boss.
A friend suggests the frustrated Maggie apply to manage one of the British Restaurants being set up by the government – communal feeding kitchens offering low cost food to residents, ensuring they get one hot meal a day.
Thrifty Maggie is ideally suited to the job, but thwarted by a bureaucracy that doesn’t reward her busy restaurant with more supplies when it proves popular – instead straining her already meagre rations.
Thankfully Maggie’s meets Robbie, a 12-year-old who spends his days prowling the streets and Janek, a Polish refugee. The resourceful pair help Maggie set up a victory garden to help supply her restaurant, teaching her to break the rules in the process.
Maggie’s a delightful and kind lead character and offset beautifully by the cheeky Robbie and pragmatic Janek. Set in 1941 amidst air raids, death and destruction it would be easy for this book and its narrative to depress readers; but Beecham skims the negatives and focuses instead on the generosity and resilience of the human spirit.