22 April 2013

Book Review: The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel

"The North Star Bakery has been in Hope's family for generations, the secret recipes passed down from mother to daughter. But at thirty-six and recently divorced, with rebellious daughter Annie and elderly grandmother Rose to care for, Hope is less than enthusiastic about carrying on the family legacy. When the bakery runs into financial trouble and Rose takes a turn for the worse, Hope's delicate balancing act is in danger of crumbling entirely.

Then Rose reveals a shocking truth about her past and everything Hope thought she knew about her family and the bakery is turned upside down. At her grandmother's request, Hope travels to Paris, armed only with a mysterious list of names. What she uncovers there could be the key to saving the bakery and the fulfilment of a star-crossed romance, seventy years in the making."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy The Sweetness of Forgetting as a paperback or an eBook now.

I find it funny how sometimes you can never read about a book on a subject, then suddenly a few come along at once. This was the case with firstly Jodi Picoult's book The Storyteller, a superb novel based on the Holocaust and the tale of Sage's grandmother who was a Polish prisoner of war at Auschwitz. Almost by coincidence just 2 weeks after finishing that book, I was drawn to reading a new book I was sent by Quercus called The Sweetness of Forgetting by American author Kristen Harmel. I had no idea what it was about and decided to give it a try. I was then shocked as I read to find out it was another book on the Holocaust, and the similarities with Picoult's book were quite astounding once I had finished.

Hope has been running her family bakery The North Star Bakery for a while now, but she can't honestly say it's what she has always wanted to do. She fell into it after becoming a mother and then getting divorced from her ex-husband, and while she enjoys the work, she feels the pressure of running a business, being a mum, and making ends meet on all accounts. When her elderly grandmother Rose's Alzheimer's gets worse and she asks Hope for a special favour, Hope gets a shocking insight into Rose's past that she had no idea about before. She's sent to Paris, and starts to piece together the puzzle of Rose's past. Will she be able to help her grandmother before it's too late, and save her family bakery too?

I didn't really go into this book with any expectations as I hadn't read anything by the author before, and the synopsis didn't give too much away either. I loved the cover and I'll admit that it was really made me pick it up in the first place, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself completely absorbed in the book when I was just a few chapters in, and I was thoroughly enjoying it. The storyline wasn't too obvious at first, but as it progressed, I was surprised at the twists and turns, especially as the similarities to Picoult's book became more and more similar too. However, I found Harmel's writing to be quite different, leaning more towards the softer and emotional side of Rose's tale, and made it more of a love story than anything else which I loved.

I really liked the main character of Hope. She's a hassled woman, haunted by her past that she can't change, and let's hinder her. Her relationship with her ex-husband is strained, and the relationship she has with her teenage daughter Annie isn't great either, especially when her ex tries to be the "better" parent. I'm sure a lot of women will be able to resonate with Hope's situation, and as her grandmother's illness becomes more important in the story, it's quite emotional to read how it changes Hope and Annie's dynamic, and how important the older woman is in both of their lives. I liked Hope's initial reservations about going to Paris and the adventure, I expect many people would feel the same and it only made me warm more to Hope and sympathise with her.

The story that Rose is holding back is quite an emotional one, and I loved the way that things develop slowly and we are simply drip-fed the story rather than being given everything at once. I don't want to go into any detail about it because it's a story that has to be read and devoured to be appreciated, but I found it to be very enjoyable to read, and very emotional too, I quite often found myself welling up frequently as it progressed. Harmel writes the emotions of all of the characters involved so well, you certainly start feeling some of their emotions yourself, and I was hooked on the book by around halfway through, desperate to find out what was going to happen next and if Hope could really make the impossible possible for Rose. It really touches you and brings home the harsh realities of the situations of that time. It isn't graphic in the way Picoult's book is, but certainly touches on similar issues and topics within it.

I love when you start a new book not having many expectations but by the time you finish, you can't wait to read something else by that author. That is how I felt after finishing Kristin Harmel's book - I just wanted to read more. I found The Sweetness of Forgetting to be a very enjoyable book, and Harmel has researched her topic so well, and has really opened my eyes to a whole new side of what happened during World War Two and the Holocaust. I loved the characters in it, especially Rose, Hope and Annie - 3 very different females in the same family all dealing with their own futures in different ways and trying to not to be held back by their pasts. It was a wonderfully written and very emotive book, and I would definitely recommend it to those looking for something a bit different to read. I'm looking forward to reading more from Kristin Harmel, what a fantastic book.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for your sweet review!! So glad you liked my book! :-)

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