For this post I have a guest reviewer. Thanks to Mrs Leask, who gave me permission to repost her comments on this blog. With an interest in Tanzania and surrounding countries, and after reading her comments, I too read ‘Baking cakes in Kigali’ (by Gaile Parkin) and I agree wholeheartedly with all she writes below… (Thanks, Kirrily)
“A delightfully warm and relaxing book to read in bed or on a couch during a quiet evening. We are introduced to the wonderful Angel Tungaraza through a series of apparently unconnected stories, which gradually dovetail to form a very satisfying whole.
Angel and her family are Tanzanians, living in the capital city of neighbouring Rwanda, where her husband Pius has a contract job at the University. Both their children have died; Angel and Pius are raising their grandchildren. Angel has developed a small business baking and decorating cakes.
It is through Angel’s diverse clientele that Parkin gently introduces big issues affecting Rwanda – and much of Africa – the legacy of colonialisation, AIDS, casualties of war (in Rwanda’s case, the terrible genocide), foreign aid. Although very heavy subjects, these are touched on through the interractions between the cakemaker and her clients, more often than not, over a cup of sweet, cardomom-spiced tea.
Initially I was concerned that the book would either trivialise the horror of such a damaged land, or that it would be terribly depressing. Neither is true because, although Parkin doesn’t whitewash any of the dreadful realities, they are found within the stories of people who display resilience, humour and hope. This book gives insight into what is unimaginable to most non-Rwandans, and allows us to enter into real hope.”
Note: reliable sources (thanks Kirrily) tell me that Gaile is working on her second novel, also featuring the Tungaraza family, Angel’s family. Definitely something to look forward too.