Reviewed by Susan Lobban
It is the morning of her children’s school fair and yet again Marie Dunwoody has forgotten to make anything. Surely she can think of something to whip up to ensure her twins are not disappointed? Unfortunately, all she can rustle up are multiple squashed boxes of fondant fancies from the local garage, which would even embarrass Mr. Kipling!
From that day on Marie vows to learn how to bake so that next year will be less of a disaster. With the help of Mary Berry’s recipes she starts to realize that everything must be thought out in order to produce a true showstopper. Mary’s ethos even starts to filter into her everyday family life. However, while Marie has her head in a recipe book, her husband Robert is having his own confidence crisis at work and her baking nemesis Lucy’s perfect facade is beginning to crumble.
Once the (flour) dust settles, will Marie be able to have her cake and eat it or will she hit a (soggy) bottom?
When Marie spots the Mary Berry Baking Bible for a £1 at the school fair she sees it as fate and is convinced it will be the end of her baking woes. However, this one simple purchase does a lot more than improve her baking repertoire; it manages to set off a chain of events that dramatically changes all around her. Marie’s life shifts in ways she didn’t see coming – her husband unearths hidden talents that would rival Paul Hollywood and her arch enemy Lucy becomes a Delia to her Mary! Who knew Mary Berry could literally change your life not just your baking?
From the very beginning the relatable humour jumped off the page, however, just like a Bake Off showstopper another layer is revealed as you delve deeper into the book. In amongst the sweetness and light there is dark as many of the characters are struggling with serious problems and life is not a piece of cake for any of them. Marie is often blind to exactly what is going on around her while she perfects her sweet treats. Funnily enough, a birthday cake in the shape of a bunny is not going to raise a smile from her 16 year old son, for example.
Marie and her husband Robert are a great married couple and, along with their three children, provide a number of laughs along the way. During the course of the story their surrounding neighbours go from mere acquaintances to being a big part of their lives in one way or another. Unusually for a book of this kind, as much as I enjoyed following the ups and downs of Marie’s baking, I loved Robert more. He was a warm, endearing character who lightened up any scenario with his witty one liners and I felt for him when his career was in the doldrums – his only solace being amongst the pages of Paul Hollywood’s bread baking books.
I devoured this book from start to finish, only being slightly unimpressed at the unsavoury cosmetic dentist/dental receptionist storyline and the predictable teenage long-distance romance. Claire Sandy has managed to combine humour and sadness with a dash of intrigue to produce an impressive debut. I can’t wait to sample more from her.