Author: Chris Smyth
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: 12th April 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher
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First Sentence“Did you remember to get yuzu juice?”
When Rosie decides to get her friends together for their very own version of Come Dine With Me she’s bursting with excitement, even though her husband Stephen is less than keen. But Rosie is adamant. Four couples, each hosting a dinner party on a different night of the week, with a prize at the end for the best one. It’ll be a good laugh, won’t it? And a great way for everyone to get to know each other. What could possibly go wrong?
What Rosie doesn’t anticipate are the lengths her fellow hosts might be prepared to go to in order to claim the prize — outlandish recipes, rare ingredients sourced from abroad, and a chocolate tart that looks just too good to be homemade… But perhaps she should be more worried about the mounting tension between the guests, as backbiting breaks out over the appetisers and a glass of wine too many leads to indiscreet flirtation. As the pressure in the kitchen rises, relationships begin to crack under strain, high-minded principles collide and the oven gloves come off… But that’s all part of the fun. Isn’t it?
Dinner at Mine is not my usual kind of book, to the point that I’m really not sure exactly how to categorise it. It isn’t quite chick lit but neither is it contemporary (or maybe it is?). What it is is a look at the realities of modern life and what happens when you throw competitive friends with different ideas of how to behave in public together for a Come Dine With Me-esque sequence of dinner parties. I have quite a soft spot for Come Dine With Me, actually. I despise reality TV and cooking shows but this one in particular is such a car crash that you just have to watch it. Okay, perhaps not. It’s the kind of show I watch when there’s nothing else on but still, the premise of Dinner at Mine intrigued me. That blurb promises intrigue and many laughs.
My problem with it however is that I didn’t really find it all that funny. The characters, every single one of them, are desperate in one way or another. Some to win the competition, some to have a better way of life, some just to keep things going as they are. But they’re all desperate and that really overrode any sense of hilarity for me because there was so much pain and anger. As well as a couple of smug gits!
You know when you read other people’s reviews and feel as though you have read a different book to everybody else? Dinner at Mine was one of those for me. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I anticipated I would as I didn’t.. couldn’t.. feel a connection to any of the characters. They weren’t introduced very well in my honest opinion, nor were they described well enough to form any kind of picture in my head, and when they were explored a little more, their flaws were so prominently on display that in most cases I found them thoroughly unlikeable. However, it did pick up a little and it was a decent read it’s just not quite the book for me.
I enjoyed Dinner at Mine as a character study of middle class couples in the London area and the ways in which they lead their lives. Tensions are high and the competition does not take the direction Rosie expected it to. Far from it.