Thursday, 1 May 2014

Little Beach Street Bakery, or On Reaffirming Life Choices

Polly Waterford is recovering from a toxic relationship. Unable to afford their townhouse, she has to move miles away from everyone, to the sleepy little seaside resort of Polbearne, where she lives alone above an abandoned shop.

And so Polly takes out her frustrations on her favourite hobby: making bread. But what was previously a weekend diversion suddenly becomes far more important as she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, and each loaf becomes better and better. With nuts and seeds, olives and chorizo, with local honey (courtesy of local bee keeper, Huckle), and with reserves of determination and creativity Polly never knew she had, she bakes and bakes and bakes… And people start to hear about it.

Sometimes, bread really is life… And Polly is about to reclaim hers.

It's pretty difficult to sum up exactly how hard it is when things go horribly wrong.  Restarting your life - no matter how old you are - is difficult.  It's difficult when you move schools as a kid; it's difficult when you make a career change; and it's difficult - as it is for Polly in Little Beach Street Bakery - when you realise that you're going to have to leave your relationship, business and world behind.

Bankrupt, with an ex who she really doesn't want to spend any time with, she has no choice to but to rent a tiny apartment above an abandoned shop on an island whose causeway often shuts it off from the mainland.

With nothing to do but job search, Polly finds herself baking to distract herself, and soon she becomes as much a part of the local community as anyone else.

I love the way Jenny Colgan always manages to anchor her novels with this reawakening concept.  The prospect of cooking and becoming part of a close-knit community may not be the way everyone wants to live their life (for me, it'd be converting an old pub into a bookshop), but there is something enchanting about the way her characters take themselves in hand.

Similarly, it's nice to see women go through this; Polly isn't some young thing (though she might appear that way to others), she's lived and had a home and a partner, and so starting everything from scratch seems so much more daunting.

But it is doable and it's exciting to see the change in Polly.

Warning:  I cried not once, but twice in this (I've been crying over novels an awful lot recently - I keep on picking great books!!).  Emotionally draining in a good way!

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