Angel Tungaraza has recently moved to Rwanda from her native Tanzania.
With her husband Pius and the five orphaned children of their late son and daughter, she is hardly short of things to do.
But she still finds time to pursue her passion: her small but increasingly successful business, baking individually designed cakes for the parties and celebrations of her neighbours and their friends.
As a businesswoman, Angel prides herself on behaving professionally at all times, even when faced by awkward situations, ethical dilemmas and her own undignified menopausal hot flashes. And if she is occasionally manipulative, it is only ever because fairness requires it. Or because people sometimes need a small push in the right direction. Or because it might just win her cakes an international reputation. Entirely aware that many of the people around her have witnessed and survived horrors she can barely imagine, Angel also knows that their lives continue, that they still find reasons for joy and celebration.
As her customers tell her their stories, she comes to realise how much each of them has to mourn as well as how much they have to celebrate. And, finally, she comes to accept how much that is true of her too...
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 368 pages, n/a
- Publisher: Atlantic Books
- Publication Date: 01/01/2009
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781843549857
Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.
Review by DubaiReader
Problems solved over tea and cakes. My initial reaction to this book was that it was tackling some really serious issues in too delicate a manner. Subjects such as the Rwandan genocide, AIDS, and female mutilation are discussed over tea and cup cakes.But as I read furthur, I realised that it worked - the gentle character of Angel Tungaraza was perfect for persuading folk from all walks of life, varied backgrounds and past horrors to talk out their problems and see a way through. The fact that Angel was not Rwandan but Tanzanian also gave her an outsider's perspective and reason to ask questions that locals would already know the answers to.Angel herself had problems too. She was caring for all her 5 grandchildren following their parents' deaths and she was worried about difficult issues such as teaching them about AIDS. Just as she helped others come to terms with their problems, so they helped her too.In many ways reminiscent of Alexander McCall Smith's Detective Agency books, this has a message to convey - a positive message of recovery and endurance; a light at the end of the tunnel. In this respect it is quite a relief from the many depressing books about Africa.Your Tags: rwanda
Review by dsc73277
A story set in a Rwanda still coming to terms with the bitter conflict which tore the nation apart in the mid 1990s may not appear to offer the prospect of an uplifting read, yet this book following a woman who runs successful business selling cakes is exactly that. Perhaps it is the yeast that makes the difference?There are obvious parallels with Alexander McCall Smith's Botswanan lady detective books. Both feature successful female entrepreneurs, share a positive outlook on African life and have a sort of episodic structure - each new client having their own story to be told. However, there is more to this book than a publisher's attempt to cash in on what the reading public like. I'm a big fan of McCall Smith, but I would still venture to suggest that Parkin has here achieved even greater success in managing to combine dark and shade.On the one hand there are the light and humorous sections - there are, for example plenty of laughs at the expense of "wuzungu" (white folk) with their peculiar liking for plain white wedding cakes - but the book also talks about serious matters, not least the Rwandan genocide, and yet still hangs together.The main character spends a lot of time mulling over ethical dilemmas, both large and small, in a way that reminded me a little of another McCall Smith creation, the Edinburgh-based philosopher Isabel Dalhousie.There is a slight bias against the westerners who feature, though US citizens may at least take some comfort that for a change it is a Canadian who appears in the worst light when stealing from a prostitute.Towards the end, and without giving too much away, one of the most impressive episodes relates to a controversial practice affecting young women. This incident is resolved in a way that makes some interesting observations about gender relations in different cultures and whether it is always incumbent on an individual to tell the truth.In summary, because I simply can't resist the pun, this has all the ingredients for a enjoyable, mood-enhancing read.
Review by moukayedr
Angel Tungaraza is a Tanzanian expat in Kigali, Rwanda. Her husband works as a special consultant at a local university and she has her own home-based business, baking individually designed western-style cakes. This helps make extra money for her large family, because after the death of both her children she cares for five grandchildren and their young minder.As Angel designs the perfect cake for each customer and occasion she gets to know her customers and becomes sometimes part of their lives, and through their stories we get to know their world. Angel is true to her name compassionate, and exceptionally tolerant. She intervenes whenever she can giving people a push in what she figures is the right direction or helping them see things more clearly. Her good intention are rewarded most of the time. There are many issues encountered in this book: The Rwandan genocide, AIDS, child soldiers, Gender equality, sexual orientation, poverty, African identity, female genital mutilation, and African wildlife (especially the endangered gorillas) among many others.Angel is someone I would love to have as my best friend, because she has exceptional understanding and tolerance for all these themes. Although the book does not explain how a woman who has always lived on the continent and only went for visits to Germany, while her husband did postgraduate studies there, could arrive at such worldly tolerance and wisdom.The book is fine for people who do not know anything about Africa, it brings it to them gently. It does not vilify Wazungu (White people) completely although it is funny to note that the only two asshole characters were a Canadian working for the International Monetary Fund and an American who the whole community knows to be working for the CIA. Other minor baddies/ eccentrics include an unbalanced former child soldier, the drunk manager of the building, and the Indians who are afraid of catching their death from germs; these characters all come across more comical than evil. All African characters are essentially good, even the prostitute is an honest working woman who looks after two sisters and an orphan.If you are willing to suspend your belief for a few hours, this book is good. It does not have a plot and reads like a series of gentle stories with some direct sermonizing. But do not question too much and wonder how an Italian-born man would be such a vehement proponent of "circumcising" his own daughter, while her Somali mother is not.
Review by CarolineTrevor
This is possibly one of the best books I have read so far. It will make your mouth water with sweet delight, you will feel warmth and love for the characters, whilst shedding many tears at the horrors of the recent history of Rwanda. Brilliant.
Review by VivienneR
This is a cheerful story about the amiable and good-natured Angel who runs a cake-baking business. Her customers share their personal problems and joys with her as she takes their orders. The cakes reflect the hope and confidence with which Rwanda faces the future. Very enjoyable.