The book in question is 'Where the Wild Cherries Grow', by Laura Madeleine (author of 'The Confectioner's Tale' - also a great read), who Tweets as @esthercrumpet. The blurb is below:
It is 1919 but the end of the war has not brought peace for Emeline Vane. Lost in grief, she is suddenly alone at the heart of a depleted family. She can no longer cope. Just as everything seems to be slipping beyond her control, in a moment of desperation, she boards a train and runs away.
Fifty years later, a young solicitor on his first case finds Emeline's diary. Bill Perch is eager to prove himself but what he learns from the tattered pages of neat script goes against everything he has been told. He begins to trace a story of love and betrayal that will send him on a journey to discover the truth.
What really happened to Emeline all those years ago?
This novel has themes and motifs that I am drawn to time and again: strong females and their efforts to overcome a challenging situation; the written word, here shown through a diary (but often shown through letters, or inclusion of 'novel excerpts' etc); a search for the truth; love in all its forms, emotionally touching but never sentimental; and food, the visual description of it as well as the exploration of the nourishment cooking gives.
Laura Madeleine is a strong, lyrical writer, who has created rounded characters in Emeline, Bill, Clemence and Arlo. They have authenticity, and each one grows and develops without taking over the story. The plot unfolds at a fair pace, and the description of settings and events is perfectly pitched: just enough to satisfy, yet not too much (some people find description slows a narrative down, but I personally enjoy its richness and texture). In terms of details, there is flavour and wonder in the descriptions of how things smell, and the descriptions of food are sensuous and delicious, making me feel I am hovering over the stove, angling for a lick of the spoon...
If I had a criticism, it would be that, for me, the ending of Bill's part of the story felt too quick, and a little too neat - perhaps all I needed was a few lines more to link back to earlier plot details (not wanting to give spoilers!), just to anchor his resolution a little more with what exists from his past.
However, I LOVED this novel - it's a story of how we might shrug off what is expected of us; how we learn that listening to our instinct is how we will be free. How we will truly live.
I'm looking forward to Laura's next book - but am armed with a snack, as her work does make me hungry...!
Many thanks to Laura Madeleine for the copy of 'Where the Wild Cherries Grow'.
~ ttfn ~