Whilst looking back on her life and the family and friends who accompanied her along the way, memories resurface for Pegi. But not every memory is sweet, and some secrets leave a bitter taste.
On her eightieth birthday Pegi's son gives her a manuscript book in which to write her autobiography, but her story is expressed through a series of recipes, each one awaking memories of an episode in her long life. Thus it is food, and the people or experiences associated with a particular cake or dish, which forms the narrative structure of this remarkable novel, in which each chapter is introduced by its own inspiring recipe for the reader to try.
Set in a quiet village in north Wales, Blasu provides a vivid portrait of a rural community from the 1930s to the present day, but this is no pastoral idyll. Rescued from childhood neglect and starvation by neighbours and grandparents, in her later life Pegi's contentment in marriage and motherhood cannot completely heal the scars left by her traumatic experience of her own mother's mental illness and her terrible, early death.
In her second novel for adults, Manon Steffan Ros exposes with great delicacy the contrast between serene public face and private doubts or anguish, and the many different and conflicting ways in which an individual's identity is constructed by those around them. Food remains the consistent metaphor throughout, its taste, colour and texture, its capacity to appal, tempt or comfort, all lovingly conveyed in the sensuous prose of a Colette or a Michèle Roberts.
‘This is a novel which engages with our primitive instincts, in a world where our instincts are fading.’