In The Kitchen, By Monica Ali

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The Independent Culture

When Monica Ali wrote her second book, Alentejo Blue, set in Portugal, it appeared as if she was attempting to escape the cultural demographics of her sensational debut, Brick Lane, which offered a comedic stance on melting-pot Britain through colourfully drawn Bangladeshi immigrants.

This work, billed as a follow-up, sees a return to state-of-the-nation story-setting but it never acquires the same energy.

Set in a kitchen of immigrants – an over-simplified post-colonial microcosm - its focus is the mid-life crisis of head chef, Gabe, prompted by the death of a porter and his affair with a sex-trafficked staff member.

Ali's weakness at creating a convincing lead of Gabe and her clunky writing means we watch him unravel, and just don't care.