The Cake Maker’s Wish…
About the Book:
When single mum Olivia uproots her young son Darcy from their life in Tasmania for a new start in the English Cotswolds, she isn’t exactly expecting a bed of roses – but nor is she prepared for the challenges that life in the picturesque village throws her way.
The Renaissance Project hopes to bring the dwindling community back to life – to welcome migrants from around the world and to boost the failing economy – but not everyone is so pleased about the initiative.
For cake maker Olivia, it’s a chance for Darcy to finally meet his Norwegian father, and for her to trace the last blurry lines on what remains of her family tree. It’s also an opportunity to move on from the traumatic event that tore her loved ones apart.
After seven years on her own, she has all but given up on romance, until life dishes up some delicious new options she didn’t even know she was craving.
An uplifting and heart-warming story about the moments that change your life forever, human kindness and being true to yourself.
I always look forward to a new release from Josephine Moon. As a pioneer of the sub-genre Food Lit, it goes without saying that her stories are delicious – and they generally make you hungry! This latest release is about a cake maker and it was all just so beautiful and delectable. I do love cake though, so this aspect of the story was always going to be a winner for me. I really enjoy how Josephine spent time throughout the story on the process of cake making, allowing for a total immersion of the senses. Detailing the flavours along with the ingredients and styling – sublime!
As is the way with a Josephine Moon book, there is always more and in terms of this one, there was a lot more than just the food on offer. Olivia has moved with her young son to the English Cotswolds to take part in a project created by one of the villages as an experiment in revival. Coined The Renaissance Project, its aim is to attract migrants into dying villages and rebuild the community in a way that offers residents and tourists a quaint self-sufficient working village, just sans the lord of the manor. I really loved this idea as something that could be transferred to real life villages and small towns. And while it was not without its challenges, all in all, it’s an idea that has merit. Given though how much our society is driven by capitalism and cheap commodities, it’s an idea that I wouldn’t expect to ever get off the ground in anything other than a niche and very strongly community driven locale, which is a shame, because I’d actually really love to live in a place like this.
Olivia has left Tasmania in a haze of tragedy. Her beloved grandmother, who raised her and has also helped raise her son Darcy, passed away on the back of Darcy having a major accident. The entire situation was terribly traumatic and I could see exactly why Olivia wanted to move so far away. Plus, there was the allure of tracing her family tree now that it was just her and Darcy left – the village they moved to was where her grandmother grew up. Another drawcard was the decreased distance to Norway, where Darcy’s father lives. This was a bit odd for me, that whole relationship, to be honest. I still can’t quite wrap my head around why neither of them tried a bit harder to be together from the outset, but anyway, that’s just me. This novel had more romance in it than Josephine’s others I felt and I’ve never been a fan of love triangles, so there were definitely parts throughout that I could have done with less of. Helge seemed a bit too convenient with his interest in Olivia after so long and I felt the addition of this kind of muddled what could have been a straightforward, not centre stage love aspect, if Olivia had just had the one love interest and Helge had remained a character whose only purpose was to be Darcy’s father. I’m probably in the minority with this opinion, but you all know me and my impressions of romance plots. I’m very finicky!
On a more serious note, there were some thought provoking issues with regards to parenting boys and the whole notion of gender vs. a child’s interest. There’s probably more correct terminology I could be using here but we’ll just muddle through. I have one daughter and two sons, the boys coming after the girl, all two years apart, so quite often playing at similar stages to each other. As small children, they could play with whatever they liked since our house had a combination of traditional boy and girl toys along with plenty of non-specific toys, blocks, games, and books. One son loved wearing his sister’s dress ups and bangles while the other was a dedicated Spiderman impressionist – thank goodness for my grandmother securing a durable costume because he wore that suit for two years straight! My daughter liked to push around Tonka trucks whilst dressed as a fairy. However, when it came down to it, when they were given the option to pick their own clothes or birthday cakes, they always gravitated without prompting towards their prescribed genders. Some might say that society itself was the prompt. Perhaps, but that’s a completely different paper to write and this is just a book review. But my own experiences meant that I never really had to deal with what Olivia did within this story. And I do believe that clouded my view. I’ll be honest here, in eighteen years of parenting, running playgroups in the early years and working in schools in the latter, children will be attracted to all sorts of things, from princesses to super heroes and everything in between, it’s just the way it is. I am totally opposed to shaming a child for being interested in something that has been defined as boy or girl. But I’m also opposed to putting your child’s welfare at risk for a political statement. I fear that new parents in the current changing society we live in might be too quick to read too much into a preference instead of just letting it all play out as a child grows.
In the case of what happened within this book with Darcy’s themed birthday party and THAT cake, the situation was avoidable and it made me really angry at Olivia that she put her son into that position, particularly since he expressed last minute reservations. From that point on, in my opinion, it all became about her, and that, I feel, is wrong. Also, as a highly skilled cake maker, she could have easily given Darcy what he wanted but with other characters from that movie decorating the cake. It’s called thinking out of the box and when you’re throwing a mixed birthday party with boys and girls in attendance, that should be your aim anyway. Also, there were boys at that party who were known bullies; I wouldn’t have even invited them, but she did, and she should have really anticipated issues. I know that as a parent, we need to advocate for our children, but we also need to protect them. It’s a very tricky tightrope to balance on and this book has certainly given me much to ponder on regarding this issue. I am eagerly awaiting a friend of mine to finish this so we can have a more in-depth off-page discussion about these themes. I do love it when a book brings this about, so take note, this one would be an ideal book club pick!
By far, for me, the community aspect of this story was the shining star and combined with all of the delicious cake making, this was a lovely novel to spend a weekend with. Highly recommended if you’re seeking a cosy read with some thought provoking content.
Thanks is extended to Penguin Random House Australia for providing me with a copy of The Cake Maker’s Wish for review.
About the Author:
Josephine Moon was born and raised in Brisbane, had a false start in Environmental Science before completing a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and then a postgraduate degree in education. Twelve years and ten manuscripts later, her first novel The Tea Chest was picked up for publication and then shortlisted for an ABIA award. Her bestselling contemporary fiction is published internationally. Her books include The Tea Chest, The Chocolate Promise, The Beekeeper’s Secret, Three Gold Coins and The Gift of Life.
In 2018, Josephine organised the ‘Authors for Farmers’ appeal, raising money to assist drought-affected farming communities. She is passionate about literacy, and is a proud sponsor of Story Dogs and The Smith Family.
She now lives on acreage in the beautiful Noosa hinterland with her husband and son, and a tribe of animals that seems to increase in size each year. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Cake Maker’s Wish
Published by Penguin Random House Australia
Released 2nd June 2020