Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Review: The Confectioner's Tale by Laura Madeleine

Publication Date: May 21st 2015
Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Publishers
Length: 336 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

What secrets are hiding in the heart of Paris?
At the famous Patisserie Clermont in Paris, 1909, a chance encounter with the owner's daughter has given one young man a glimpse into a life he never knew existed: of sweet cream and melted chocolate, golden caramel and powdered sugar, of pastry light as air.

But it is not just the art of confectionery that holds him captive, and soon a forbidden love affair begins.
Almost eighty years later, an academic discovers a hidden photograph of her grandfather as a young man with two people she has never seen before. Scrawled on the back of the picture are the words 'Forgive me'. Unable to resist the mystery behind it, she begins to unravel the story of two star-crossed lovers and one irrevocable betrayal.

Living in France has made me want to read more books set over here – I want to immerse myself in as much of the country and culture as I can and that means involving it in my reading as well. And truthfully the books I’ve read so far have been fantastic. I’ve loved exploring different parts of the country and different time periods when I delve into a new book – which was what made me pick up this one. I mean the fact that it is set in a patisserie alone was enough to tempt me, the cakes that come out of some patisseries are incredible, they are works of art. So I was curious (and mildly hungry) when starting this one.

The story is split over two timelines, Gui’s in 1910 and Petra’s in 1988. I’m always a little wary of split timeline narratives as one narrative invariably ends up suffering. Sadly this was true for this novel, which knocked it down from five stars to four as, whilst Petra’s narrative was interesting it was very slow and dragged from the pacing and intrigue contained in Gui’s narrative. I wanted to be in Gui’s world, to find out what would happen and to spend more time in the patisserie, so it was always frustrating to be dragged back to Petra’s story where nothing much seemed to happen and she spent a vast amount of time not really accomplishing anything. Her timeline does pick up the pace to match the frenetic conclusion to Gui’s and the final part of the novel was much tighter and worked well as a whole. However the lack of real conclusion to a couple of Petra’s narrative threads left me feeling a little frustrated.

There wasn’t a huge amount of depth to the secondary characters and at times even with the primary characters. It felt as though I were skating along the ideas and possibilities of the book without ever being allowed to grasp at the depths of emotions it could contain. However rather than having a huge negative impact on my feeling during reading, it kind of works. It reads like a movie, you can smell and taste and feel everything and it is so deliciously descriptive in its surrounding, that the lack of real emotional depth of the characters doesn’t prove to be too much of a setback. What did frustrate me though was how childlike Gui proved to be at points. Whilst the majority of the novel was spent with him as an intriguing and fascinating character and our insight into this world, there were moments where he regressed and became childishly quick to anger and misunderstand. Sadly that diminished my love and respect for him as a romantic lead, but luckily these moments were relatively rare and didn’t impact my overall feelings on the novel too hard.

These frustrations and gripes aside, I adored this novel. It was a wonderful story that revealed little pieces of the whole in such a tantalising way that you were constantly kept guessing and wondering how the story would resolve. It was a wonderful mix of intrigue, race against time, love and historical novel and it brought all the threads together seamlessly. The language is rich and evocative and I could visualize the patisserie and the pastries Gui and the other chefs were creating so vividly that it was almost cinematic at moments. It’s a wonderful novel, full of little delights and sadnesses that left me filled with bittersweet contentment and a longing for Paris and pastries. Whilst it wasn’t a outstanding favourite it will definitely be a novel I return to and fall back into the magic of Paris that Laura Madeleine has created. Fans of Daisy Goodwin’s historical novels will love this.


  1. OH my goodness... that's a gorgeous cover, and the mention of desserts is enough to get my sweet tooth riled up. I'll have to check this one out! :)

    1. I KNOW! The cover was enough to make me go yes please, want! And that was my only big problem - how hungry I was getting with the food descriptions! I hope you enjoy it!