Title: Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook
Author: Celia Rees
Page Length: 512
Publication Date: July 7, 2020
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Synopsis: World War II has just ended, and Britain has established the Control Commission for Germany, which oversees their zone of occupation. The Control Commission hires British civilians to work in Germany, rebuild the shattered nation and prosecute war crimes. Somewhat aimless, bored with her job as a provincial schoolteacher, and unwilling to live with her stuffy genteel parents any longer, twentysomething Edith Graham applies for a job with the Commission—but is instead recruited by the OSS. To them, Edith is perfect spy material…single, ordinary-looking, with a college degree in German. And there’s another thing—the OSS knows that Edith’s brother went to Oxford with one of their most hunted war criminals, Count Kurt von Stabenow, who Edith remembers all too well from before the war.
Intrigued by the challenge, Edith heads to Germany armed with a convincing cover story: she’s an unassuming schoolteacher sent to help resurrect German primary schools. To send information back to her OSS handlers in London, Edith has crafted the perfect alter ego, cookbook author Stella Snelling, who writes a popular magazine cookery column that embeds crucial intelligence within the recipes she collects. But occupied Germany is awash with other spies, collaborators, and opportunists, and as she’s pulled into their world, Edith soon discovers that no one is what they seem to be. The closer she gets to uncovering von Stabenow’s whereabouts—and the network of German civilians who still support him—the greater the danger.
With a unique, compelling premise, Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is a beautifully crafted and gripping novel about daring, betrayal, and female friendship.
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Set in post-World War II Germany, Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is a fascinating story that focuses on Edith, a British school teacher who regrets that she spent much of the war safely teaching and caring for her mother. Determined to contribute more, Edith applies with the British to aid in the rebuilding of Germany. Though Edith assumes she will be working in an educational capacity, because of her affluence in German, she is recruited by the British intelligence to locate and spy on Nazi war criminals. Edith’s main mission? Locate Kurt von Stabenow, her ex-lover and a Nazi who partook in horrific medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners.
Edith adopts a pseudonym and poses as a cookbook author so that she can easily travel the country and send back intelligence through her recipes. I loved this! Since censors didn’t scour recipes for coded messages, it was a clever way to communicate vital information.
The story is suspenseful and filled with intrigue. Edith’s world of espionage is dangerous, and the more involved Edith becomes in her mission, the more she questions who she can really trust. Everyone seems to have different motives, and her mission becomes very dangerous when she finds herself dealing with not just England, but with several other parties (including America and Russia) interested in Nazi war criminals. It seems there are as many people who want to use them for their knowledge and expertise as there are that want to see them brought to justice and punished for their crimes.
Edith’s kindness, intelligence, and willingness to help others make her an admirable protagonist. Considering there are so many characters with agendas and a multitude of loyalties, Edith’s goodness is refreshing. Dori is another fascinating character and spy who works with Edith. I like that the story focuses on strong, independent, and brave women with skill and integrity.
The time period and perspective is interesting, informational, and disturbing. As much as I enjoy historical novels set during World War II, I haven’t read many that take place shortly after the war. Decimated towns, displaced people, disease, famine, and devastation plagues the places Edith visits. The suffering people withstand is insurmountable and devastating, and Rees’ skillful writing describes the bleakness of life during this time.
An intriguing, suspenseful, and thought-provoking story, Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is filled with vivid descriptions, well-developed characters, and amazing amounts of research. I’m so glad that I won this in a Goodreads Giveaway, as I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
Readers who are interested in WWII fiction with a strong female protagonist will enjoy this interesting and thought-provoking book. It will also appeal to readers who enjoyed The Tattooist of Auschwitz or The Book of Lost Names.