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 façade 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.
The most obvious comparison to be made with this book and it's competition to find the New Mrs Eaden is the Great British Bake Off. If you are a fan of that TV show then this book will appeal to you, in fact this book does more than cover the baking competition, we get to go behind the scenes in each of the contestants lives.
For some reason I could not get the characters straight in my head until around half way through the book. Each one is introduced in turn, but a couple of them seemed to be similar and so I struggled to know who was who for a while. It is for this reason only that I gave four out of five stars.
That point aside, I really enjoyed the book. Not only do we have the back story of each character taking part in the contest, but also the back story of Mrs Eaden - the 1960s cookery writer. In this respect it reminded a little of Julie and Julia book/film. As a child on the 60s it was interesting for me to read the social content side as portrayed by Mrs Eaden - it really brought to life for me what it would have been like for my parents.
My favourite character in the book was Jenny, the empty nester. However there is just so much more to her character than her children having left home. I won't spoil the plot, but I was behind this character all the way.
I did feel the book could have delivered a little more, as it really only scratched the surface with the back stories, with the emphasis being on the cookery competition.
Four out of five stars for this book from me.
My thanks go to Netgalley and Hodder Paperbacks for allowing me an advance copy of the book to review.