One of the great joys of working in a bookshop is that you are exposed to all kinds of books – you see your old favourites every day, get sneaky peaks at new authors’ work and, as you shelve, you see a lot of titles that you mentally categorise as ‘not my sort of thing’…..But moving out of your comfort zone can be a good thing. If I hadn’t tried new genres I would never have read David Barnett’s Gideon Smith novels, the fabulous Birdbox or How to be a Productivity Ninja. There are one or two experiments which were less successful (I shall name no names) but on the whole I have really enjoyed discovering new things.
Stories which veer towards the ‘chick-lit’ have usually been low on my list of priorities. When I was in my teens and twenties they didn’t really exist (although I did have a rather bad Mills & Boon habit at one point) and later I told myself that I didn’t have much in common with the typical chick-lit heroine. Claire Sandy’s What Would Mary Berry Do?, however, did catch my eye – as ever, I am easily tempted by even the thought of cake – and I am glad I gave it a chance. The heroine is a slightly older woman, happily married and comfortable with her own and her family’s imperfections; the plot is pretty straightforward but not entirely predictable or overly kooky and there is an enjoyable cast of supporting characters.
The plot follows a year in which Marie Dunwoody, a dentist with three kids and a husband who are simultaneously the best and most frustrating family imaginable, learns to bake. And along the way she finds friendship, never quite discovers how devious nine-year old twins can be and develops a working theory of personality types based on which tv chef various people have most in common with. Personally I’d like to be a Nigella but think I’m probably a bit of a Delia….I found all the characters interesting and engaging (but certainly not perfect) and the ending very satisfying. If this book were a cake it would be one of those wonderful ones which are full of fresh flavours but not so full of sugar that they set your teeth on edge (maybe our Café W Blueberry Crumble traybake fits the bill). And it has no calories at all…