Alternate title: a bad surprise and a very good one.
|By Bread Alone||Blessed are the Cheesemakers|
|Black Swan Paperback, 368 pages||Black Swan Paperback, 320 pages|
Why I read them
Way back when I participated in my very first reading challenge (with my old blog), someone mentioned these two. I don’t recall what was said, bu it was enough to make me add the titles to my wishlist, and to pick them up when I had the chance several years later.
The bad surprise: By Bread Alone
By Bread Alone is the story of a woman whose marriage is on the brink of destruction because she went through several very hard experiences over a very short time, and who looks for refuge from her own life in an old romance with a French baker.
It is not a bad book. Lynch has a good, light tone and deals very well with shrouding the whole story with mystery and revealing things only a little at a time. That much I appreciated. As a bread-lover myself, I also liked the baking lessons and details (including a recipe to make your own starter).
The “bad” part is that I could not stand the protagonist. This is one of those characters that never make decisions on their own, but let things happen to them. I could accept this from the 18-year-old Esme, but cannot forgive it in her older, married-and-mother self. And because of her behaving in this way, all the interesting themes the book deals with (family, loss, mourning) end up being dealt with in a very light and superficial manner. I may sound a bit too severe, but it really did put me off.
The good surprise: Blessed Are the Cheesemakers
So it took me a long time to get to the second book, and I approached it with lower expectations, and was pleasantly surprised.
Blessed Are the Cheesemakers is a quirky book about the healing potential of love and good cheese. It’s hard to summarize it without giving away anything, so I’ll just say that it features a cheesemaker who can read minds, cows milked to the sound of songs from The Sound of Music, and a cheese (the Coeur de Collarney) with a strong personality:
“Shake?” she finally offered timidly, holding out her hand [...]
Kit looked at her hand. She could stick it up her ass, as far as he was concerned, and he was about to tell her that when the Coeur lashed out and slapped him.
“Sure,” he said instead. “Why not,” and he took the hand she had offered in his own.
The fromage d’amour screamed with triumph.
I must admit that most twists were quite predictable, but the story as a whole was less so, so this did not detract from my enjoyment. Bottom line: it may not be great literature, but a nice story, quirky details, an easy style and likeable characters make for a good and relaxing read.