My Fine Fellow. Jennieke Cohen. 2022. [January] 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: In the year 1833 of the Common Era, a fair ten years since King George IV died and his much beloved daughter, Princess Charlotte, succeeded him as Queen Charlotte of England, Ireland, Hanover, and so on and so forth, one Miss Penelope Pickering stood in the shadowed portico of St. Paul's London, wondering how much longer she'd have to wait for her dear friend Helena Higgins.
My Fine Fellow is a YA adaptation--a spin--on the classic musical My Fair Lady which is an adaptation of Pygmalion. Helena Higgins and Penelope Pickering team up to teach a young street vendor, Elijah Little, how to become a gentlemen chef. The two young heroines are still in training themselves, mind you, but they feel that with their "expertise" and a little luck, they can fool everyone with their finished project. If all goes well, he'll be cooking for Queen Charlotte herself.
The novel is told primarily through Penelope Pickering's perspective--with perhaps a few moments here and there from other characters.
It is set in an alternate history one where Princess Charlotte survives childbirth and goes on to reign as Queen. Queen Charlotte is ALL about women's rights, women's equality, opening up all education and careers to women.
The novel definitely is heavier than you might expect. You might suppose that this would be a light, entertaining, silly read. And it is--in places. The heaviness comes in with race and racism. In some ways there's no recovering from that.
The book provides an opportunity for rants. If you've ever had a strong opinion on HENRY HIGGINS (from the original), then you might enjoy the ranting against Helena Higgins. But really, the characterization is minimal.
I feel this book is too 'modern' for its own good. Just my opinion. I think the dishes they were having the characters prepare scream out Food Network from the past ten years AND not like any recipe you'd find in any book from the nineteenth or even twentieth centuries. Granted, this is an alternate history, but, still.
© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews