cover reveal: The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs

“…explores the enduring struggle for female freedom, the creativity and quiet joy of cooking and the poetry of food.” @BookMinxSJV

Eliza Acton, despite having never before boiled an egg, became one of the world’s most successful cookery writers, revolutionizing cooking and cookbooks around the world. Her story is fascinating, uplifting and truly inspiring.

Told in alternate voices by the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, and with recipes that leap to life from the page, The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is the most thought-provoking and page-turning historical novel you’ll read this year, exploring the enduring struggle for female freedom, the power of female friendship, the creativity and quiet joy of cooking and the poetry of food, all while bringing Eliza Action out of the archives and back into the public eye.

#TheLanguageOfFood


what it says on the cover …


England 1835. Eliza Acton is a poet who dreams of seeing her words in print. But when she takes her new manuscript to a publisher, she’s told that ‘poetry is not the business of a lady’. Instead, they want her to write a cookery book. That’s what readers really want from women. England is awash with exciting new ingredients, from spices to exotic fruits. But no one knows how to use them.

Eliza leaves the offices appalled. But when her father is forced to flee the country for bankruptcy, she has no choice but to consider the proposal. Never having cooked before, she is determined to learn and to discover, if she can, the poetry in recipe writing. To assist her, she hires seventeen-year-old Ann Kirby, the impoverished daughter of a war-crippled father and a mother with dementia. 

Over the course of ten years, Eliza and Ann developed an unusual friendship – one that crossed social classes and divides – and, together, they broke the mould of traditional cookbooks and changed the course of cookery writing forever. 


what you need to know


The Language of Food will be published in paperback on 3rd February 2022 … so not too long to wait then! But if you can’t wait, you can pre-order your copy right away from @ColesBooks and @blackwellbooks

#ChooseBookshops


what others are saying about it


‘A sensual feast of a novel, written with elegance, beauty, charm and skill in a voice that is both lyrical and unique. The Language of Food is an intriguing story with characters that leap off the page and live, but what sets it apart from it’s contemporaries is Abbs’ outstanding prose’ 
Santa Montefiore

‘I love Abbs’s writing and the extraordinary, hidden stories she unearths. Eliza Acton is her best discovery yet’ 
Clare Pooley

‘A feast for the senses, rich with the flavours of Victorian England, I prepared every dish with Eliza and Ann and devoured every page. A literary – and culinary – triumph!’ 
Hazel Gaynor

‘A sumptuous banquet of a book that nourished me and satisfied me just as Eliza Acton’s meals would have… I adored it’ 
Polly Crosby

‘An effervescent novel, bursting with delectable language and elegant details about cookbook writer, Eliza Acton. Don’t miss this intimate glimpse into the early English kitchens and snapshot of food history’ 
Sara Dahmen

‘Wonderful… Abbs is such a good story teller.  She catches period atmosphere and character so well’ 
Vanessa Nicolson

‘Two of my favourite topics in one elegantly written novel – women’s lives and food history. I absolutely loved it’ 
Polly Russell

A story of courage, unlikely friendship and an exceptional character, told in vibrant and immersive prose’ 
Caroline Scott

‘Richly imagined and emotionally tender’ 
Pen Vogler

‘Characters that leap off the page, a fascinating story and so much atmosphere, you feel you’re in the kitchen with Eliza  – I loved it.’ 
Frances Quinn

‘I was inspired by Eliza’s passion, her independence, her bravery and ambition. Like a cook’s pantry, The Language of Food is full of wonderful ingredients, exciting possibilities and secrets. Full of warmth and as comforting as sitting by the kitchen range, I loved it’ 
Jo Thomas

‘A delightful and gentle read’ 
Nina Pottell


author bio


Annabel Abbs is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. She grew up in Wales and Sussex, with stints in Dorset, Bristol and Hereford. Daughter of academic and poet, Peter Abbs, she has a degree in English Literature from the University of East Anglia and a Masters from the University of Kingston. She lives with her family in London and Sussex, and is a Fellow of the Brown Foundation.

Annabel’s debut novel, The Joyce Girl, has won several awards including being selected for presentation at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. Published across the world, Annabel discussed The Joyce Girl on BBC Radio 4’s Soul Music. It is currently being adapted for the stage.

Her second novel, Frieda: The Originial Lady Chatterley, was a Times Book of the Month, then a Times Book of the Year 2018 and one of five novels selected for presentation to film directors at the 2017 Frankfurt Book Fair. 

Annabel’s first non-fiction book, The Age-Well Project, was published by Little, Brown in 2019, co-written with TV producer, Susan Saunders, and based on their acclaimed blog agewellproject.com, longlisted for the 2018 UK Blog Awards.

Annabel’s short stories and journalism have appeared in various places including The Guardian, The Paris Review, Tatler, The Irish Times, Weekend Australian Review, Elle, Sydney Morning Post, The Author, The Daily Telegraph, Psychologies Magazine, Philosophy Now, Mslexia and the Huffington Post. She has been profiled in Writing Magazine, Sussex Life, Next NZ, Litro and Female First and speaks regularly at literary festivals. She sponsors a scholarship/bursary for a mature student on the UEA Creative Writing MA. 



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