I love seafood to both cook and eat so often enjoy watching and reading Rick Stein recipes and as a result I picked up a copy of his memoir Under A Mackerel Sky. I knew it was a bit of a long shot as good food, recipes or understanding of ingredients does not make for a great author if they actually choose to write their memoirs themselves rather than bring in a ghostwriter.
Sadly the style of writing did not turn out to be a pleasant surprise and it was a little dry and felt lifeless throughout. There are some memoir books where it really feels that the person writing it, or sharing their ideas with a ghost writer, just is not at all comfortable with sharing things about their past and no matter how much they try to open up it just still feels really stiff and jarring for the reader.
There were certainly some interesting points in the book such as giving a glimpse into the fish/seafood scene and stock in the UK, especially in the South West, as well as how privilege functions for travelling and moving around. I didn’t feel like I learnt huge amounts, or really anything, but it is always good to see a different persons perspective on things especially when it is something that they are specialised in.
The layout of the book was nothing mind-blowing with just a few parts containing multiple chapters and with that it felt very structured and linear. It felt even more linear as a result of it starting at an early point in life and going through in a seemingly chronological order rather than connecting together different themes throughout. Usually such a simple book layout and timeline feel to a book is something that I appreciate, at least in a novel it jumping all over the place can leave me feeling a little confused, but for a memoir it felt like several points and emotions became repetitive as a result of the way it ordered in time or not.
On the front cover there is a quote from the Observer saying it is a “fine autobiography” and the word fine tends to have two meanings but in this case I cannot help but feel that this is just a mreh mediocre kind of fine because it is nothing groundbreaking, it doesn’t really feel like it lets the reader into Rick’s life or past that much and it doesn’t feel like it connects to the person that we know today but just another person in the cooking industry which is pretty disappointing.
It really just is not worth the read and you are unlikely to feel that you are learning much about the man that has spent so much time telling us about seafood, fish and various other produce from across the UK and beyond. The first few pages made it obvious that it was going to be a real slog to get through the book but I persisted on the hopes that it would warm up. Sadly it did not warm up and all and it became a real drag but I was in one of those moods where I was not going to openly admit defeat and wanted to at least read it so I could get it out of my To Be Read stack and even possibly into the Give To Charity stack instead.
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