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By Bread Alone Paperback – 1 Jan 2004
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"A whimsical, heart-warming romp through life, love, disappointment, and redemption."
A handsome French baker looks like being the secret ingredient to refresh Esmes stale life. But is the recipe for happiness closer to home?See all Product description
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In this story, it is the sourdough starter which is the magic ingredient - 'the living, breathing, bubbling mixture of the past and the present that ... added to every batch of flour and water to turn it inot the future.' It is the starter that forms the link for Esme between the most beautiful summer of her life, in her late teens, when she falls madly in love with a young baker in a small village in France, and her life fifteen years later, when things aren't quite so rosy.
Now Esme is married to Pog, they have a young son, they live in the House in the Clouds in Suffolk, her father-in-law lives with them, as does her grandmother. It is fairly clear early on in the story that something awful has happened to this family, and it is just not talked about, which is why the reader never finds out till the end either. The constant through the last fifteen years has been Esme's daily sour dough breadmaking, still using that same starter she created that summer in France. Esme simply cannot help herself focussing on the happy times in her life, just to get her through her days. And of course the memory of her summer with Louis is at the forefront of that.
A chance meeting with Louis threatens to completely derail Esme, or does it offer her the unbelieveable opportunity to start her life again with the man she can never forget? And off we go on a breath holding will she or won't she? Yes do it, you say to yourself, surrender to love and Louis, then no, don't leave Pog, make more bread, someone save her!!!!
A lovely frothy treat of a read, with a very worthy message at the end - Man, or woman for that matter, cannot live by bread alone. Cryptic I know, but all will become clear. Now, off to make my own starter - the recipe at the end of the book is not the one used by Esme, but according to the author is the best she has tried, and it would seem she tried a few.
Esme has - on the surface - a highly desirable life, but tensions bubbling under are not far away. She buries her angst under a busy routine of tending for her young son, elderly grandmother, partially disabled father in law, adoring husband, idiotic dog, evil goat and a hive of very angry bees. Her bread making, lovingly crafting the delicious Pain Levain sourdough loaves, no longer brings her joy, and her life is falling to pieces. She ruefully comments that although she has all the components for a perfect life, she can't seem to fit them together...
Perhaps she can rekindle her youth again with her first ever lover, the charismatic baker Louis?
The story moves back and forth as Esme tries to settle her life, from humour (and the truly horrible Jemima Jones!) to utter despair. I laughed and cried with Esme, and her multi coloured life.
As with 'Blessed are the Cheese Makers', Sarah-Kate Lynch tantalises the reader with her talk of crispy, chewy crusts, and tender crumbs within... I have to finish this review now as I feel the need to go and bake some bread!!
As we learn through the unfolding of the book, Esme and bread have been linked to each other since a certain holiday in France - and her first love, her first lover Louis the baker. Louis is the one who taught her the pleasure of sourdough. And now, in this time where Esme feels so cut off from herself and those that she loves, Louis comes back into her life, with the pull of what might have been. And what might not have been - the loss that may have been prevented.
Esme's story is in turns touching, tragic, funny and uplifting. She's a unique woman, fiercely loved, and yet someone trying so hard not to have to come to terms with the changes wrought by the events of the last 2 years. Lynch doesn't let her get away with that, and inevitably leads Esme down the path of discovery and growth.
It's a voyage for Esme, and I enjoyed taking it with her. Esme and her family are very likable, although hardly perfect. Esme is hiding, and that's not very healthy although very human. And that's the best thing about the book for me. Lynch so clearly enjoys her characters warts and all, that I couldn't help but enjoy them too. If one could call it a flaw, there are no malicious, nasty characters about, which seems a bit unreal compared with real life - and I could imagine that the House in the Clouds and the family that lives there were taken from real life. But the warmth and good feeling of freshly baked bread abounds in the book thanks to the writer, even when Esme's past catches up with her.