Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Review | Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

by Jenny Colgan

My Rating: 

Polly Waterford is recovering from a toxic relationship. Unable to afford their flat, she has to move miles away from everyone, to a sleepy little seaside resort in Cornwall, where she lives alone above an abandoned shop. And so Polly takes out her frustrations on her favourite hobby: making bread.

But what was previously a weekend diversion suddenly becomes far more important as she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, and each loaf becomes better and better. With nuts and seeds, olives and chorizo, with local honey (courtesy of local bee keeper, Huckle), and with reserves of determination and creativity Polly never knew she had, she bakes and bakes and bakes.... And people start to hear about it. Sometimes, bread really is life...and Polly is about to reclaim hers.

I don't read contemporary all that often, although it's definitely a genre I've started exploring a little more over the past year. Contemporary settings I can handle, but I love my speculative fiction; if a book doesn't even have a hint of magical realism in it then I'm immediately less likely to pick it up, but that isn't always the case. Sometimes I need something fun and light to fill me with the warm fuzzies, and contemporary is ideal for that.

Little Beach Street Bakery isn't the first Colgan book I've read, I fell in love with her Rosie Hopkins books at the end of last year and have been eager to check out more of her contemporary since because I love the way she includes food in her stories, from sweets to cupcakes to chocolate and, now, to bread! Who doesn't love a bit of bread? Apart from people who can't have glucose...

Perhaps it's my love for Daphne du Maurier, but for whatever reason I have a weakness for books set in Cornwall. I knew I wanted to read more of Colgan's work outside of the Rosie Hopkins series, and to be honest it was the Cornish setting that sold Little Beach Street Bakery to me. The setting was beautiful; Colgan really brought Cornwall to life, to the extent that the setting felt like a character in and of itself. Writing place is something Colgan does incredibly well.

At first it felt a little strange to be reading a Colgan book that wasn't about Rosie, but Polly soon grew on me; she's a really fun and honest protagonist to follow around, and I certainly empathised with the predicament that she found herself in at the beginning of the story. She makes mistakes, she learns from them, and she grows. What more could you want from a protagonist?

I also loved her trusty sidekick Neil the Puffin, even if he was a little unrealistic. Then again if I wanted realism I wouldn't read fiction!

However, while I enjoyed this book I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the Rosie Hopkins books. I felt no real chemistry between Polly and either of her love interests - though I did appreciate that Colgan gave her more than one relationship, unlike many other contemporary reads I've come across - and judging by a lot of the other reviews I've read I'm not alone here. In fact there were times when I felt as though the story would have been just as good, maybe even better, without any of the romantic elements at all. 

I did like her best friend, Kerensa, despite being a little unsure about her at first, but I thought the subplot involving her nearer the end of the book got a little too silly for my taste.

I will definitely read Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery, which I already own a copy of, as I'd like to return to Cornwall and see how these characters are doing. With any luck there'll be a little more chemistry there than I felt in this first book! I did enjoy it, though, it's just a shame Colgan spent so much of the book talking about chemistry that wasn't there.

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