Book review: Nice Work (If You Can Get It) by Celia Imrie

Celia Imrie
Celia Imrie
Have your say

WITH her comic timing and killer cheekbones, Olivier award-winning actor Celia Imrie has been a TV, film and theatre staple for decades, in everything from Acorn Antiques to Best Marigold Hotel – and even in a Star Wars movie, as the first female fighter pilot to appear in the franchise.

Nice Work (If You Can Get It) by Celia Imrie

Recently she turned her hand to writing fiction too with Not Quite Nice, her first novel, published last year, which follows the adventures of a group of plucky retirees who have relocated to the French Riviera, determined to not go gently into that good night. It won rave reviews, with Julian (Downton Abbey) Fellowes praising it as “hugely entertaining”, was a Sunday Times best-seller and reached number five in the Apple iBook chart and eight in Amazon’s book chart.

Now she’s back with the sequel, Nice Work (If You Can Get It) and returns to the lives of the plucky retirees who this time round have decided to open a restaurant in their sleepy Riviera town of Bellevue-sur-Mer.

Imrie assembles a cast of likeable and not so likeable characters to people this pacy, light-hearted romp around the Riviera, and as you read, you can almost picture it playing out on screen. That’s because of the way Imrie writes it, revelling in the dialogue and with her Magpie eye for character, peopling the book with elements of dramatis personae that has surely been culled from her life.

There are film stars and national treasure actors, PRs, restaurant reviewers, WAGs, divorcees, gay couples, sexy French fishermen and Russian oligarchs entangled in a plot of love triangles and dodgy deals, all set against the glamour of the Cannes Film Festival.

Interspersed with the plot are mouth-watering recipes, simple, fresh south of France fare like tomatoes à la chapelure and caviar Nicoise with Melba toast. They’re the sort of delicious treats served up in the expats’ restaurant when they’re not wrestling villains or sorting out family traumas, and that you fondly imagine you might rustle up if you weren’t too busy racing through this romp to put it down and stuff a tomato.

Imrie is on a roll with her Nice stories: they’re sharp, witty, with a nice plot twist and like her recipes, leave you with an appetite for more. Expect book number three to be served up before too long. Nice Work (If You Can Get It), it’s nicely done.