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Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson - Review

Thursday, May 25, 2023

I saw this book a few weeks ago but didn't buy it, but then saw it for very cheap on Kindle so bought it. I was away in Northern Ireland and usually take my Kindle when I'm on holiday so I started this. It's much easier to just read on my tablet when I'm on holiday, especially when flying. I say Kindle and I say tablet and mean the same thing because although it is a tablet, I don't use any of the other apps on it except the Kindle one. I sometimes do use the document reader if I'm cross stitching, but otherwise it functions just as a Kindle!

So, I liked the blurb of this book but I have to say it didn't entirely land with me. I feel like I've read this story a hundred times before and I'm just sort of bored of it. There were some original parts, like Covey's history with swimming, but generally I feel like I've read this before. Some chapters are really short and the point of view changes quickly, which I found annoying at times. Plus the style of writing jarred sometimes. There's parts that feel like a newspaper article - things are reported as having happened to to be going to happen, instead of the reader getting to see those things happen in real time. I understand that this can be a space saving device, but if you're so desperate for space in your novel then you've got too much stuff going on in it, in my opinion. 

So the story concerns Bryon and Benny's mother, Eleanor Bennett. Before the beginning of the novel, she has died. Benny has been estranged from the family for eight years, because she is bisexual, but that's never put into actual words so that annoyed me as well. Byron has been caring for his mother since the death of their father five years before. Eleanor has left a long recording for Byron and Benny with her lawyer and companion, Charles Mitch. She has also left one of her famous black cakes in the freezer and tells them to eat it 'when the time is right'. She says they'll know when the time is right.

We then go back to her early years, and her birth name, Coventina Lyncook. Her mother was from the Caribbean and her dad was Chinese, and Covey grew up 'on the island' which is assumed to be Jamaica. Apparently there were quite a few Chinese immigrants in Jamaica, which I didn't know and which I did find interesting. Lin, Covey's dad, is a gambler. Her mother leaves when Covey is small and never comes back or sends for her. Covey's mother figure is the housemaid, Pearl, with whom her mother used to make her famous black cakes as wedding cakes. Covey is a brilliant open water swimmer. She trains with her friend, Bunny, and then she meets a boy, Gibbs, and falls in love. The two plan to move to England to start a life together there, but unfortunately Lin has other plans for her. I won't say anymore of this story because it was interesting to see it unfold. 

Eleanor tells her children that they have a sister, and the story of how that happened comes out too. They make contact with her; she is a food historian and I did like the stuff she said here about food and culture and history and stuff. The book sort of lost me in the last third because the point of view jumps around all over the place, and there are way too many characters who all wanted to stick their oar in. I feel this end bit could have been massively streamlined and yes it may have left some questions unanswered for the reader, but I actually don't mind that. 

All in all, I was just a bit bored by the book and am giving it three out of five. 

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