Book of the week

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An Appetite for Violets

Martine Bailey

2015, 400 pages


Biddy Leigh, the under-cook of Mawton Hall, initially feels no loyalty towards her employers. And why should she?

Three days after being introduced to her new mistress, Biddy is told she must leave her fiancé, her beloved kitchen and her home and travel with Lady Carinna to Italy for some unknown reason. Determined to get something of value out of the trip, Biddy records every recipe she can in a hand-me-down book, The Cook’s Jewel. As her skills progress from rarebit to soufflé to spun sugar delicacies, she begins to dream of a life outside of the quiet village she has called home. Lady Carinna, however, has other plans for Biddy, and she is not someone who is easily stopped.

Bailey is excellent at description, and both the characters and the flavors of Biddy’s world are vividly detailed. From the violet candies that Biddy makes in the first few pages to the truffle hunt that she participates in, it’s easy to understand and share Biddy’s love of good food.

Bailey also pulls off the trick of describing characters in terms of their physical presence without making boring lists of traits, which is difficult to do. The plot is a little bit predictable (I guessed the ending about 40 pages before it actually happened), but Bailey’s writing more than makes up for that. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I’m looking forward to Bailey’s next novel.

Nora Cascadden

Concord Public Library

Author: The Concord Insider

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