Thursday 28 April 2016

Reviewed: Summer at the Comfort Food Café by Debbie Johnson

TITLE: Summer at the Comfort Food Café
AUTHOR: Debbie Johnson
PUBLISHER: HarperImpulse

PUBLICATION DATE: April 29, 2016

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The Comfort Food Cafe is perched on a windswept clifftop at what feels like the edge of the world, serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle cafe overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security – a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu.

For widowed mum-of-two Laura Walker, the decision to uproot her teenaged children and make the trek from Manchester to Dorset for the summer isn’t one she takes lightly, and it’s certainly not winning her any awards from her kids, Nate and Lizzie. Even her own parents think she’s gone mad.

But following the death of her beloved husband David two years earlier, Laura knows that it’s time to move on. To find a way to live without him, instead of just surviving. To find her new place in the world, and to fill the gap that he’s left in all their lives.

Her new job at the cafe, and the hilarious people she meets there, give Laura the chance she needs to make new friends; to learn to be herself again, and – just possibly – to learn to love again as well.

For her, the Comfort Food Cafe doesn’t just serve food – it serves a second chance to live her life to the full…

I want to spend my summer at the Comfort Food Café!

I’m a real fan of Debbie Johnson’s books but Summer at the Comfort Food Café is for me, by far her best book to-date. It’s wholesome, full of heart and emotion, laughter and a beautiful blossoming romance. It has all the components of a glorious summer read – one to devour in one sitting on the beach or to snuggle up with on a true British summer’s day, at home as the rain pours outside.

The book starts off in a clever way, as we get to learn main character Laura’s story straight away in the form of a rambly and emotional job application letter. Laura is a really loveable character who I kind of just wanted to hug and protect from page one. Having had her life turned upside down two years ago by the death of her husband David, the only things stopping her from shutting life down and understandably wallowing in a mass of grief and loneliness are her children, Lizzie and Nate, and their old dog. But when the chance arises to leave Manchester and head to Dorset for the summer, job and accommodation provided, Laura snaps it up.

I loved Laura’s character. She was portrayed very realistically, from her emotions to her family relations and everything in between. She was a characteristically brave and strong character and you can root for her right from the very start of this book because of that. Laura is also a really funny character and the humour in this book is evident right away and I giggled my way through the entire story. What I really liked about how Laura’s character was written is that, although you do of course sympathise with her because of everything she’s been through, she is not defined by her grief. She has a whole bubbly character and personality about her and I think like many people who have experienced grief would like, it’s easy to see her as Laura and not as the woman whose husband died.

There were many other delightful characters in Summer at the Comfort Food Café. Cherie Moon, the larger than life lady who was employing Laura for the summer, was a really warm character and completely batty and entertaining. Nate and Lizzie were both strong characters too and I loved seeing how they developed and felt throughout this sort-of holiday they weren’t exactly excited about. The various customers of the Comfort Food Café and their funny nicknames also added an emotional depth to this story along with masses of light relief. And then there was Matt, the vet who had me melting at his every word, appearance or just the mere mention of his name. Ahhh…

Of course I can’t review this book without mentioning the Comfort Food Café itself which is practically heaven on earth. With a delicious menu and a huge serving of comfort for every individual customer every day they visited, it’s just a shame it’s purely fictional! I loved the thought put into creating the café – from the menu created by Cherie that has things catered for regulars’ needs, like burnt bacon sandwiches for Frank just like his wife used to make for him. Or from how Cherie and Laura always took the time to sit down and chat with the customers, hearing out their problems only if they wanted to discuss them. It was such an uplifting setting.

Debbie Johnson has this refreshing writing style which is fast-paced, bold, funny and purely entertaining from start to finish. The chapters were short but sweet, and along with the teasers as to what was to come throughout each week for Laura, it was only fair of me to of course read on and sneak in as many chapters as possible throughout the day. Heart-warming and optimistic, Summer at the Comfort Food Café is a genuinely gorgeous novel, a book of hope and solidarity, friendship and humour and the belief that everything might just turn out okay after all.


  1. I have just downloaded this book, the name of it caught me straight away. I love foodie books, so looking forward to seeing what the Comfort Food Cafe has to offer. I think, like you, I will be wishing I could visit there.

    1. I'm sure you'll love it, Amanda! Just your kind of book.


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