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We all have areas of the world that we never tire of reading about, and I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for a little English village.
I’ve long had a fondness for British authors such as D.E. Stevenson, Miss Read and Elizabeth Cadell, authors who could write a gentle romance that was about more than just the love story. At the heart of them, they were about the woman herself and finding a place where she belonged. And they were about the place, filling your head with vivid pictures of hidden corners of the British Isles.
I sadly thought that this kind of book was a dying breed, but apparently its time has come again with the arrival of Jenny Colgan on the bestseller charts. I picked up “Little Beach Street Bakery” when it came across the desk a few weeks ago, and let me tell you, I was charmed from the first page.
It’s the story of Polly Waterford, and when the book opens, her life is falling apart. A failing business has led to bankruptcy, the end of a long relationship and the loss of her house. Unable to afford to live in her familiar hip, urban environment, she finds herself taking a lease on the only affordable home she can find: a run-down stone cottage on an isolated tidal island off the coast of Cornwall.
She’s only planning to stay as long as it takes to get back on her feet, but in the meantime her life is complicated by a crotchety landlady, a throng of fisherman, an orphaned puffin, a charming beekeeper and baking — so much baking!
Food is a strong theme throughout Ms. Colgan’s books, and here it is bread, warm and comforting, that forms an unexpected bond between Polly and the islanders and makes her begin to rethink where home might be.
One of the most striking characters of the book is the island itself, Mount Polbearne. Inspired by the actual town of Mount St. Michael, it’s a tidal island with a causeway to the mainland that can only be crossed at low tide.
This semi-isolation makes it a vivid setting, with strong people and stronger storms. I love this kind of book for exactly this: the overwhelming sense of place that gives deep roots to the lighter story.
A bit more modern in flavor than those earlier authors I listed, it did have a little bit of language and a few adult situations that were mostly covered by a discreet fade-to-black, so factor that into your enjoyment.
I’ve since read another of Ms. Colgan’s books and found it just as charming, and am looking forward to picking up the two sequels to this one.
“Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery” by Jenny Colgan is available at the Wilson County Public Library in regular format, large print, book on CD, and eBook.
Genevieve Baillie, is extension services librarian at the Wilson County Public Library