THE CAKE MAKER’S WISH
Sometimes you want to read a book that challenges you, that plays with the form and function of the novel. Sometimes, though – or more often than sometimes, if you happen to be reading in this year of our dark lord two thousand and twenty – you just want to read something comforting. Something that welcomes you in and suggests you settle into a comfy armchair with a warm beverage of your choice. A story where you know everything will be OK in the end.
The latest novel from popular foodie-lit author Josephine Moon, The Cake Maker’s Wish, is that novel. Feeling adrift after the death of her grandmother, Olivia happens upon an ad seeking descendants of emigrants from the village of Stoneden in the Cotswolds to return and help revive the community. Realising there’s so much she doesn’t know about her beloved Ma’s life before she arrived in Australia, Olivia packs up her six-year-old son, Darcy, and travels to the village where her grandmother was born. She’s also excited about giving Darcy the chance to meet his Norwegian father, Helge. But not everyone in the village is welcoming of the newcomers and when Helge arrives, Olivia realises their relationship is more complicated than she ever could have guessed. There’s also the problem of Grayson, a handsome local farmer.
Olivia is a wonderful character. She’s competent and accomplished, friendly and confident. Her career as a baker (she specialises in sweet treats, which means she can operate in harmony with the town’s other new baker, Leanne) is a little cliched, but works for her character and the plot. It’s also refreshing to see such a positive and uplifting portrayal of a single mother – a rare thing in fiction, when single mothers have a tendency to be depicted as lacking in some way, or as the woman out to steal other women’s partners.
While Olivia and her fellow new arrivals serve as our introduction to Stoneden, it’s the long-term residents and the small-town tension and intrigue that really flesh out this endearing story. Through older residents Clarence and Madeleine, Moon weaves the tale of a prosperous town with a thriving community that fell victim to the swiftly changing world of the late twentieth century, as well as establishing the opposing factions of the village: those who want to revive the town, and those who want to cut their loses and sell their properties to rich Londoners as holiday homes.
Moon’s light touch and sunny narrative style creates a buoyant tale of hope and friendship and loves lost and found. In this delightful-as-a-chocolate-and-raspberry-cupcake novel, embracing the past secures a future its characters never thought possible.
The Cake Maker’s Wish by Josephine Moon. Michael Joseph. 384pp. $32.99