Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet).
As someone who loves baking, this book was always going to make it to my reading list. I sat down to read it and within a few chapters was overcome by a desire to make choux pastry. Choux pastry … go figure. Anyway, once I’d satisfied that urge I sat down to read again. Here’s the blurb:
There are many reasons to bake: to feed; to create; to impress; to nourish; to define ourselves; and, sometimes, it has to be said, to perfect. But often we bake to fill a hunger that would be better filled by a simple gesture from a dear one. We bake to love and be loved. In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookery writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes. Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs Eaden. There’s Jenny, facing an empty nest now her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife’s death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it’s like to have nothing and is determined her fa ade shouldn’t slip. As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest choux bun seems the least of the contestants’ problems. For they will learn – as Mrs Eaden did before them – that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it’s very much harder in life.
Here’s a snippet:
But you’re lucky. If things don’t work out quite as you’d like … well there’s a Plan B, isn’t there? You’ll always have your baking and your writing to fall back on.
A baking competition turns into a search for self, direction and affirmation. Each contestant has something to prove – at the outset, it’s their skill in the kitchen; what it becomes is something much more as the contestants’ personal lives add extra spice to the competition. Marriage problems, mental illness, parenting and the all-round life balancing act all bring their own flavour, adding depth to a tale that on the surface seems light and fluffy. A novel that speaks to the hearts of women, especially those who love to cook, The Art of Baking is less about the end result as it is the living, decision-making, juggling and improvising it takes to get there. A quick, entertaining and mouthwatering read, with my only complaint being that there were no recipes at the end. Some of the things the contestants made sounded delicious!
Available from good bookstores (RRP $29.99). My copy was courtesy of Hachette.
Bookish treat: The choux pastry turned into eclairs with fresh strawberries and Baileys-infused cream. I had to taste one before I shared with the rest of the family.