The Sweetness of Forgetting – Kristin Harmel

This book on the surface, just seems like any ”womens” novel which contains a family orientated saga. 

There are three main female characters, Rose who came to America to escape the Second World War and find a new life which involved starting a bakery in a small American town near Boston.

Then there is Hope, Rose’s granddaughter who has had to carry on the tradition running the bakery, as now her own mother has died and Rose is in a home no longer able to manage. It was never what Hope wanted to do with her life.

As Hope helped her grandmother. Annie, Hope’s teenage daughter helps her in the bakery where the hours are long, the work rewarding but not very profitable. Her failed marriage means Hope and Annie clash constantly and it is another thing for Hope to worry about.

This book goes way beyond the surface with these characters. Rose is in a home because she has Alzheimer’s and whilst she spends most of her time in another world – her lucid moments, are very lucid and both Hope and Annie are learning a lot about Rose.

Rose gives Hope a list of names. Hope needs to find out the answer to this list of names without ever knowing the question. This information takes Hope on a journey to Paris where it seems there is a past which she never knew existed and that whilst reunions are a wonderful happy moments, it seems Rose’s story is very much tinged with persecution, great loss and sadness. Hope realises that you have to hang on to those happy memories they will last you a lifetime.

As Hope discovers who all these people are, their connection to Rose and the journey they have been on, we learn about the persecution of particular religions during the Second World War. How this persecution was common ground for differing people and beliefs, but they all seemed to  put these things to one side to save lives, save each others lives possibly at great cost. It was this part of the story which kept me reading and which made me think this book is more than the fluff you may be expecting from the cover and the inclusion of recipes. Personally it did not need the recipes, the descriptions of the bakery items both in Paris and America were enough to illustrate what food can do in bringing people together, creating memories which last a lifetime across oceans and continents.

This book was a surprise, I didn’t think I was going to get a romantic story wrapped up in some very sad moments and I did feel very bereft as the book came to an end. Well worth a read.

Kristin Harmel is a new author to me and this was a purchase based on the cover and the blurb, nothing more. I wonder if her previous novels are much more deeper than they first appear? 

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