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Chez Moi, By Agnès Desarthe

A novel about a smart, separated Parisienne who opens a restaurant in her own flat and dreams of the Beatles relishing her "cod loin in blackberry jus with wild mushrooms" sounds just too cute to work.

Persist, however, and Desarthe digs behind the chic façade. Slowly, she reveals our kitchen wizard, Myriam, as a woman on the run from her marriage and her past, not just "queen of the kindly kingdom of gentleness" but a creature of unruly passions who craves food's healing grace.

The charm flows and recipes entice but (in Adriana Hunter's translation) we savour far more spice than schmaltz.