2015 Book Reviews Hodder & Stoughton Sarah Vaughan St Martin's Press
Book Review: The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan
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, cookbook 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 that 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 facade shouldn't slip.
As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest pastry seems the least of the contestants' problems. For they will learn--as as Mrs. Eaden did before them--that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it's very much harder in life.
*First of all I would like to thank the publishers for sending me a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*
Review: I love baking, so I usually enjoy books where baking takes a huge role. This is the case of The Art of Baking Blind. The book combines two story lines, one in the sixties when Kathleen Eaden became famous as the face of her husband's supermarket chain and started writing a book about her baking, which became the ultimate baking guide. The other story line is in the present and the same supermarket chain is running a baking competition to find the new Mrs Eaden. The two story lines complement each other really well as we get to read fragments of Kathleen book that connect with the type of bake they are doing on the competition. And I really enjoyed these fragments as the detailed and generous descriptions had me salivating for those gorgeous baked goods.
In the present line, we get to know the five contestants in the baking competition and we learn that life is not as dreamy and perfect as we could have thought at the beginning. All of them carry their own secrets to the competition. The fact that so many characters play a big role in the story meant that I was a bit lost at the beginning of the story, especially as almost all of them are women. But once I had all the characters and names clear, I started enjoying the story considerably more.
Some of the stories are more developed and you get to care more for those characters, for example, I really cared for Jenni, who after a life dedicated to her husband and daughters, finds herself with a huge void in her life that she feels with baking. Or the young single mother, Claire, who must face more economic difficulties than the rest of the participants. But I think that some other stories were too superficial, for example, I would have loved to know more about widowed father of two, Mike. I was left with the feeling that he had more to say.
As I said, the part I enjoyed the most were all the perfect descriptions of the stunning baked goods. I am sure that anyone, amateur baker or just a beginner, will be left with a huge desire to create some of those goods as soon as they have finished reading this book. Also, if you enjoy tv shows like The Great British Bake Off, you'll love reading about the baking competition in the book as even if it was not televised, it had a similar structure and air.
But the book is not only about baking and delicious food. Sarah Vaughan handles really brave topics like eating disorders, miscarriages, troubled marriages and heartbreak. Even if unexpected, they give this story a bittersweet spark and a deeper dimension and make you care for the characters even more.