Review: The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan

I can think of nothing more comforting than curling up with a hot chocolate, a thick slice of my favourite cake, and a good book.

So when I saw The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan, my eyes lit up (and my stomach started rumbling) – a book about a baking competition? This caters to my great love of comfort reading, and my love/obsession with Great British Bake Off.

Eadens, an upmarket supermarket chain, is on the search for the next Kathryn Eaden. Kathryn’s 1960s guide to baking is found in homes up and down the country, and the five bakers competing – Jenny, Claire, Mike, Vicki and Karen – are no exception. As they bake, they find their cakes and breads are not the only things they have to worry about perfecting

I was expecting The Art of Baking Blind to be a light, fluffy, sweet read, like a good Victoria sponge. I was completely surprised, however, to find that Vaughan has actually created something a lot deeper, and, at times, darker.

In the present we meet our five bakers both at home and in the competition venue. Matronly Jenny is finding it increasingly difficult to make her husband, who has taken up marathon running and seems to be turning increasingly more cruel, happy. Perfect Karen is clearly hiding some secrets behind her polished appearance. Vicki is struggling with being a stay at home mum. Single mum Claire is wondering how she’ll measure up to everyone else, and Mike is bringing up his two children after the death of his wife. So far, so fairly typical – none of Vaughan’s characters seem to have any problems you haven’t seen before on the page or the screen. The inclusion of Mike seems to me to be to balance things out and include a token male (we don’t spend enough time with him for me to really get to know or care about him), but apart from that, as The Art of Baking Blind progresses, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Vaughan has created complex characters whose problems aren’t two dimensional, and who surprised me throughout.

Interspersed between the present day storyline is the tale of Kathleen Eaden, a seemingly perfect 1960s housewife. As she works on her baking book, which will become a classic, we find out that Kathleen is struggling to have children. Vaughan takes this into a much darker, more tragic direction than I expected. It makes difficult reading at times, but I found myself eager to get to the next stage of Kathleen’s story. To be honest, I probably could have just read an entire book about Kathleen – I found her fascinating and liked and sympathised with her more than with anyone else in the book.

Wrapped as it is in a cover full of pastel colours and swirly white writing, it would be easy to dismiss The Art of Baking Blind as a frivolous book, but props go to Vaughan for creating something that has a lot of depth, and that will have you feeling emotionally wrung out in places. A slice of cake should help with that though.

How I got this: From the publisher, Hodder & Stoughton. This did not affect my review.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Trish Hannon says:

    A bake off style book sounds fun. I love that it's not all fluff though and that you felt emotionally attached to the characters. I think I'll need to check this one out.


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