2017 Book Review

Book Review: The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan

4 ⭐️’s from me

Goodreads Summary: From the critically acclaimed author of The Hummingbird and The Curiosity comes a dazzling novel of World War II—a shimmering tale of courage, determination, optimism, and the resilience of the human spirit, set in a small Normandy village on the eve of D-Day

On June 5, 1944, as dawn rises over a small town on the Normandy coast of France, Emmanuelle is making the bread that has sustained her fellow villagers in the dark days since the Germans invaded her country.

Only twenty-two, Emma learned to bake at the side of a master, Ezra Kuchen, the village baker since before she was born. Apprenticed to Ezra at thirteen, Emma watched with shame and anger as her kind mentor was forced to wear the six-pointed yellow star on his clothing. She was likewise powerless to help when they pulled Ezra from his shop at gunpoint, the first of many villagers stolen away and never seen again.

But in the years that her sleepy coastal village has suffered under the enemy, Emma has silently, stealthily fought back. Each day, she receives an extra ration of flour to bake a dozen baguettes for the occupying troops. And each day, she mixes that precious flour with ground straw to create enough dough for two extra loaves—contraband bread she shares with the hungry villagers. Under the cold, watchful eyes of armed soldiers, she builds a clandestine network of barter and trade that she and the villagers use to thwart their occupiers.

But her gift to the village is more than these few crusty loaves. Emma gives the people a taste of hope—the faith that one day the Allies will arrive to save them.”

My Review:

This book started slow at the beginning, but if you keep going after the first few chapters you will soon be imme31850560rsed in this little village on the Normandy coast. As the villagers attempt to reckon with the occupation, their home begins to ebb but Emma – the village baker – shows them a way to silently resist. It is in this resistance that they find joy.

This is a story of silent resistance, but the emotional journey also portrays the fragility of life – and the resulting, unimaginable, tight-rope these villagers must walk in order to avoid discovery.   The Voltaire quote Kiernan uses at the beginning helps to generate this dangerous atmosphere:

“It takes twenty years to bring man from his vegetable state inside the womb…to the stage where he begins to grown into maturity. It took thirty centuries to learn something about his structure. It would take an eternity to learn something about his soul. It takes only an instant to kill him.” – Voltaire

Such authentic characters help make this WWII novel. I definitely recommend this read.