The Confectioner’s Tale by Laura Madeleine
Publisher: Black Swan
Recommended for: Anyone who loves Paris, cakes or historical fiction.
What secrets are hiding in the heart of Paris?
At the famous Patisserie Clermont in Paris, 1909, a chance encounter with the owner’s daughter has given one young man a glimpse into a life he never knew existed: of sweet cream and melted chocolate, golden caramel and powdered sugar, of pastry light as air.
But it is not just the art of confectionery that holds him captive, and soon a forbidden love affair begins.
Almost eighty years later, an academic discovers a hidden photograph of her grandfather as a young man with two people she has never seen before. Scrawled on the back of the picture are the words ‘Forgive me’. Unable to resist the mystery behind it, she begins to unravel the story of two star-crossed lovers and one irrevocable betrayal.
Take a moment to savour an evocative, bittersweet love story that echoes through the decades – perfect for fans of Kate Morton, Rachel Hore and Victoria Hislop.
The Confectioner’s Tale is a beautiful debut from English author Laura Madeleine. It focuses on Petra, a young scholar who is fascinated by her late grandfather’s past and decides to research it for her thesis. After finding an old photograph with the words ‘forgive me’ written on it, Petra realises that her grandfather (J. G. Stevenson) may have been keeping a from her. However, she refuses to believe that it is anything bad. Nevertheless, as Petra delves further into the mystery, she realises that maybe she didn’t know her grandfather as well as she thought.
In her book, Madeleine explores two time periods: the early 1900s and the 1980s. The chapters alternate between the two eras, half focussing on Petra and the other on a French man called Guillaume de Frere. Guillaume finds himself homeless and begins to work at a patisserie in Paris. It isn’t long before he falls in love with the daughter of the owner, oblivious to the fact that she is engaged to another man. This results in a scandal that involves J. G. Stevenson and captures the attention of Petra and an autobiographer decades later.
I enjoyed both parts of the narrative, especially finding out about J. G. Stevenson’s involvement with Guillaume and Patisserie Clermont. One might find the dual narrative confusing at times, but I managed to keep up. I loved the mouth-watering descriptions of the cakes and the detailed paragraphs about Paris in general. I could picture the settings and characters in my head. The book is really well-researched and full of drama and secrets. Although I was a little disappointed by the ultimate revelation in The Confectioner’s Tale, I’m glad I read it. It’s one of the few books that you can judge by its cover.