I received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I made the mistake of not getting around to reviewing this book for over a month after reading it and, unfortunately, it wasn’t that memorable for me. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good read – and it’s definitely a really strong debut – I just don’t think it’s one of those books which will stay with me for a long time.
The cover of the book promises to sweep you away to another time and immerse the reader in the decadent life of a Parisian patisserie. And on that front, it really doesn’t disappoint – this book is a joy to read; pure escapism. Madeleine captures the atmosphere of the classic bakery perfectly – and it really left me craving an indulgent Parisian pastry.
The story is told using a dual narrative, switching between 1909 Paris and 1988 Cambridge. In Paris, we meet Guillaume (Gui) Du Frer, a railway worker who stumbles across the Clermont Patisserie one day and falls in love with both the shop and a prominent member of its staff. The ‘present day’ 1988 narrative follows Cambridge PhD candidate Petra Stevenson, who discovers that her late grandfather may have been involved in a scandal and is desperate to unearth the true before the pompous writer working on her grandfather’s biography does.
Using the dual narrative, the writer seamlessly combines romance, historical fiction and a little light mystery in a book which really engaged me from the first page. I did feel that the 1988 storyline felt weaker and paled in comparison to the romantic Parisian patisserie. When Petra’s chapters arose I was always keen to get back to the evocative world of 20th century Paris, but I can see why they had to be there – her investigation was crucial in unravelling a thread of romance and scandal which connected over half a century.
All in all this is a lovely little story, it’s written well and I can’t think of many better ways to while away a few spare hours than indulging in this sweet romance. It was a pleasure to read, but it just didn’t blow me away.