The Art Of Baking Blind – Sarah Vaughan
Genre: Foodie fiction
I got intrigued by this book after reading Smitha’s review, and went on to request it on NetGalley. I was approved for it, to my delight. The book turned out to be as charming as the title sounds! 🙂
The Art Of Baking Blind is about five people who enter a baking competition a la MasterChef – Claire, Karen, Jenny, Vicki and Mike. Each of these five people have lives, histories and problems of their own, which is revealed little by little as the story – and the baking competition – progresses. Slowly and gradually – the life of Kathleen Eaden, baking doyenne of the 1960s, in whose honour the baking competition is held – is revealed, too. As one round after another of the competition gets completed, the story has the participants reflecting on their lives, and making some important decisions.
Since there is a competition involved, there is a lot of drama and action involved, too. The author has handled it beautifully, though, not overdoing it one bit. I loved the way how all the characters sound real, their dilemmas relatable, and their emotions palpable. And then, of course, there are the gorgeous descriptions of the cakes and the baking process, which are sure to make one drool. All in all, I thought the book was a delightful read, a well-written, sensitive book that manages to be both realistic and dreamy at the same time.
I highly recommend this book to all of you, irrespective of whether you like cooking (or baking) or not.
Apparently, The Art Of Baking Blind is Sarah Vaughan’s first book. I am definitely going to watch out for other books by her!
The House At Tyneford – Natasha Solomons
Genre: Historical fiction
This is a book I picked up on a whim at a discount sale without knowing anything about the author, just because the description sounded so very charming. Here is the storyline, from the book’s dust jacket:
In the spring of 1938, Elise Landau arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay. A bright young thing from Vienna forced to become a parlour-maid, she knows nothing about England, except that she won`t like it. As servants polish silver and serve drinks on the lawn, Elise wears her mother`s pearls beneath her uniform, and causes outrage by dancing with a boy called Kit. But war is coming and the world is changing. And Elise must change with it.
At Tyneford she learns that you can be more than one person.
And that you can love more than once.
The House At Tyneford turned out to be a delightful, delightful read!
The book cannot be considered as great literature, and the storyline is simple, with no big twists and turns. That said, it is still a well-written book. The author has done a great job of describing Elise Landau’s inner turmoil, thanks to having to leave her cushy life in her beloved Vienna due to the war and having to live apart from her family, as a parlour maid, in Tyneford. In fact, I loved the way the book sheds light on the plight of the numerous servants in the house of a rich English family having a huge house by the bay.
The entire story has the backdrop of World War II, and there is a strong thread of romance running through it. The characters have been beautifully depicted, making you feel as if you personally know them by the time you finish reading the book.
One of the things I liked best is the sense of atmosphere in the book – it does come across in waves. Tyneford, a little fishing village in England, sounds immensely charming, a place that I would like to visit some day. The people are colourful and interesting. Tyneford Manor sounds elegant and stately – the perfect English home. The descriptions of the little things from daily life in the village bring the place to life. What’s more, Tyneford and its inhabitants are based on a picturesque village – war-torn and haunted now, sadly – that the author happened to visit. Elise’s character, too, has been inspired by one of the author’s relatives, who was forced by the war to become a refugee. Probably, this is why the author has been able to depict the personality of the characters, their thoughts, and the atmosphere of Tyneford so very beautifully.
If I have a grouse with the book, it is the ending. I did not like it AT ALL. It left a bitter taste in my mouth. Of course, that could be just me!
All in all, I am thrilled with the mixed emotions, majorly the sense of longing and lingering sadness that the book left me with. The desire to visit a place like Tyneford, too. I would definitely urge you to read this book.
Natasha Solomons has written a few other books too, which I am sure I am going to pick up some time. I am glad I discovered this author, that is for sure!
This book has been published by the name of The House At Tyneford in USA and as The Novel In The Viola in the UK.
What are you reading at the moment? Any suggestions for me?