An Appetite for Violets Paperback – 8 Jan 2015
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Part social history, part exploration of 18th century cuisine and part action-packed, dark-edged mystery, this is probably the most delicious - and inventive - story you will read this year. (Lancashire Evening Post)
If you enjoyed Jo Baker's Longbourn you'll enjoy this. It's another beautifully written 18th century servant story, sad in the same sort of way and similarly rich . . . An impressive debut. (Daily Mail)
Martine Bailey writes with such easy, compelling grace, and in a fascinating new genre - best described as culinary gothic. I was hooked and enraptured. (Fay Weldon)
I adored this novel: a delicious addictive mix of confectionery, skulduggery and crime, sprinkled with dark secrets and sauced with piquant comedy. (Maria McCann, bestselling author of AS MEAT LOVES SALT and THE WILDING)
An absolutely delicious novel; I savoured every page. (Imogen Robertson, author of Instruments of Darkness)
Biddy's irrepressible nature is apparent from the very start . . . she is one of the most likeable protagonists I have encountered in a long time . . . It's rare to encounter descriptive skills as good as this. At every point I felt I could see, hear, smell and taste what was going on . . . This novel takes in historical, Gothic and crime ficiton in a clean, easy sweep and manages to pack in cultural and culinary observations without once disrupting flow or timing . . . There's a great sense of the book being a complicated and daring recipe; both the timing and the proportions of each ingredient needed to be exactly right to produce the best result. Bailey's recipe has worked perfectly. I was cheering for the heroes, booing for the villains and feeling disappointed as the end of the book crept up on me. AN APPETITE FOR VIOLETS is a terrific novel . . . a must-read for anyone who enjoys a full, flavoursome and hearty story. (The Bookbag)
A tour de force . . . This novel is about rulers and the ruled, cookery and the emergence of restaurants, sugar-craft, slavery, all kinds of love and companionship and also a great mystery story. The writing itself is beautifully fluent and quirky in its use of eighteenth-century parlance, yet this latter element was used charmingly and never overdone. It's full of twists and turns with marvellous moments of drama and some super revelations I never saw coming! I'd recommend this novel to anyone wanting an insight into the period and a jolly good read with satisfying and very real depths. (Rebecca Mascull, author of THE VISITORS)
It's not often that I read a book as voraciously as this. The last was THE GOLDFINCH by DonnaTartt, so Martine is in excellent company. I just had to know how this story of deception, intrigue and passion ended. (S D Sykes, author of PLAGUE LAND)
A hugely evocative novel that transported me right back to 18th Century Europe. AN APPETITE FOR VIOLETS is filled with sensuous food writing and Biddy has such a distinctive voice. (Sarah Vaughan, author of THE ART OF BAKING BLIND)
I really, really loved AN APPETITE FOR VIOLETS and you caught Biddy's voice so beautifully I could hear her in my head. I read the proof while I was stuck on a few train journeys and I was racing through it while never wanting it to stop. The recipes, the voices, the places, the atmosphere and tension - it was all so high-coloured and vivid I felt it was playing out in front of my eyes. At points I even forgot I was on a FGW train . . . It's so accomplished and confident for a debut novel. (Lucy Dillon, author of A HUNDRED PIECES OF ME)
A compelling tale of obsession and mystery, introducing a brilliant new voice in historical fiction.See all Product description
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I only gave it four stars because some of the characters are fairly standard props (the jealous lady companion, the lovable black slave yearning for his island home, the lecherous count and his ever so desirable head chef) and basically it is only a romance and an adventure and but an unusual and extremely well written one, standing out from most of the books I have read in either genre. I shall certainly look out for more work from this author.
It is set in the eighteenth century and the central character is Biddy Leigh, an under-cook with a lot of talent and the ability to learn fast. Biddy travels to Italy with her mistress Lady Carinna and she grows from awkward under-cook, memorably described as raw-tongued and clod-hopping, to become a resourceful and compassionate mistress of her life.
The story is cleverly told from a number of points of view by using letters as well as Biddy's journal and her inherited book of recipes The Cook's Jewel. It's quite a tale involving servants and capricious masters and mistresses; flaky morals, dark secrets and betrayals. But ultimately it is the tale of Biddy.
I loved the descriptions of food and oh the recipes in those fat free days! In the recipe for Christmas Pie for example twelve pounds of butter are involved. A delicious read.
I am giving the novel five stars because I found the writing to be excellent. The author captured my imagination from the very start. The description of the food, journey and places was very visual and obviously researched in detail. Every character was well rounded. The ones I loved, I worried about and hoped they’d still be around at the end. The ones I hated, I could have helped bury. The narrative voice, the language for the period was just right. I was often reminded of Georgette Heyer. Every good book has a mystery that keeps you hooked until the end, and this has. I like novels with twists, and this book had plenty.
This book has been one of my fastest reads to date, and that, is a recommendation in itself.