So there seems to have been, and there continues to be, a bit of a trend for fiction which revolves around the world of baking, perhaps inspired by our love of programmes like the Great British Bake Off (UK). Have we had enough of this trend yet though? In my case, absolutely not! Jenny Colgan’s latest novel, Little Beach Street Bakery, is a stand-alone piece of work which will not only provide you with a great read, but, if you’re like me, it will also leave you very hungry and inspired to bake some bread yourself!
Polly’s world is pretty much crashing down around her when we meet her. The business she runs with her boyfriend has gone bust and they find themselves in a situation where they not only have to declare themselves bankrupt, but they’re also struggling to sustain a relationship which may have been buried as deeply in the sand as Polly’s boyfriend’s head is about the whole situation. So when they have to put their flat up for sale and decide a break apart may do them a world of good, can Polly put her life back together?
With rental prices in their home town of Plymouth beyond the reach of jobless Polly, a low-cost (but pretty derelict) rental above an abandoned shop on a remote tidal island miles away from her friends slowly sounds more and more appealing as she’s keen to regroup. But will this temporary move provide Polly the peace and space she is looking for? Well, it’s not long before she is rediscovering her passion for baking bread, good bread at that, and when word (and smell) gets out, Polly is going to find herself up against the ‘only’ baker in Polbearne, Mrs Manse, and she is not a happy woman...she also happens to be Polly’s landlady. Can Polly challenge traditional ways in Polbearne? And in a small place where everyone knows each other can Polly just be by herself or will she be drawn into local life, with its good and bad points?
Well, I loved this book from start to finish. The sense of place is fantastic and I’m someone who comes from a seaside town and knows of people who’ve experienced some of the same issues as are covered in this novel; sometimes very moving. I had such vivid pictures of Mount Polbearne in my mind from her great descriptive writing. It was so atmospheric at times, particularly with the nighttime descriptions. As Polly is a newcomer, we get to see everything through her eyes and it’s like escapism for us as readers too, as we become part of this community (or try).
It has a great set of characters including, of course, a couple of possible love interests, although I have to say the love story was an enjoyable bonus to a book I predominantly enjoyed on the basis of place/community. It might sound weird but all the characters felt very "normal;" no one is perfect, especially not in this book, but each character in their way is likable. You always understand, or at least eventually, why they are the way they are.
There is even a pet puffin in this book...Neil! So lovable! Although I was on tenterhooks hoping nothing was going to happen to him! Polly as a central character is very warm and likable; she is a strong woman who can be quietly determined when she puts her mind to something.
I’ve been a fan of Jenny Colgan’s writing for a number of years and yet again this is a novel I’d definitely recommend. I did actually order some yeast and bread flour whilst I was reading this novel. With some recipes at the back of the book there’s nothing stopping me having my first attempt at baking my own bread soon. I bet it’s not as good as Polly’s though!
Thanks to Sphere for the book in exchange for an honest review.
More by Jenny Colgan: