Chocolate Mousse and Two Spoons by Lorraine Jenkin
|Chocolate Mousse and Two Spoons by Lorraine Jenkin|
|Genre: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis|
|Summary: Lettie of Lyme Regis meets Dougie of Glan Llanfair, but the path of true love never runs smooth in chick-lit as original as this. If you haven’t discovered Lorraine Jenkin’s writing yet, give her a whirl, for she’s warm, witty and wise.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 280||Date: April 2008|
|Publisher: Honno Welsh Women's Press|
|External links: Author's website|
From the first sentence: With one hell of a crash, Lettie Howell's dinner service hit the wall…, I knew that I was going to enjoy this tale. An opening thus full of expletive and resounding Welsh Voice immediately makes it clear who’s the boss and I can relax, knowing I’m in competent hands. Welcome, Lorraine Jenkin, to my handful of favourite chick-lit authors.
Here is a well-crafted and original novel following two sets of characters living in two small towns, one in mid-Wales, the other, Lyme Regis in Dorset. Because I read and loved Eating Blackbirds earlier this year, I know that Lorraine Jenkin's narrative style starts with multiple seemingly independent strands until, some way through, it becomes obvious that the plots are ducking and weaving together until they finish in one hell of a tangle.
So, Lettie stands up to her afore-mentioned, china-chucking boyfriend. In the resulting loneliness of singledom, she places a classified ad in the Sunday Times (probably the only way to find a new man if you live and waitress in Lyme Regis between bouts of painting). The newspaper finds its way into Wales, and Dougie the gorgeous tree surgeon answers the ad. Now Dougie is a man and a half for the female reader, the sort of hunk (but sensitive, mind) we'd all like to cuddle up to on a dark night. A collective aah accompanies Lettie as she finds all the funny little notes he's written to help her feel at home when she visits his cottage.
But, and again this is Jenkin's forté, many of the other characters start off with rather less than desirable characteristics of man or womanhood but slide into our hearts along the way. Skinny Twat and Big Eve, for example, start as the Fifties' caricature holiday postcard of a huge woman with her tiny, inadequate mate. We're drip-fed with details and before long, we start to understand and sympathise. Of course, the population of Glan Llanfair already knows about her demanding mother and his sad history, but as Eve struggles to look after Peter, the sniggers turn to help and we see the strengths in an interwoven Welsh community.
Or take Rizzo, Lettie's lodger. He shows up with some bad habits, what with being a perpetual student and relying on his rich parents. He has absolutely no hope of achieving anything until he bucks his ideas up, which won't happen until the earth falls in, which it very nearly does ... but I won't spoil the storyline by telling you any more than it's actually very neatly anchored inside the messy tangle.
Jenkin has a lovely knack, not just of acute observation, but of reminding us of the very ridiculous thing that we have noticed ourselves, be it about person or place. She unpacks it for inspection, with a subtext in a loud, very Welsh authorial Voice that's funny and wry without ever being intrusive. What with that and the witty chapter titles, I thought she absolutely nailed the characters and settings of small town mid-Wales and Dorset ex-fishing village tourist trap.
I have no idea how old this lady is, but she has a warm streak of humanity running through her pragmatic marble(s) from which we can all learn. It doesn't matter the ages of her appealing characters. This is thoroughly feel-good writing and I can't think of any better way of encouraging readers of any age to be upbeat and optimistic as they cope with whatever life throws at them. And if you should happen to be a TV producer, beat on Honno's door now, before someone beats you to a fab little romantic comedy.
Perhaps I’ve been rather mingy in not giving this first novel five stars, but I get the impression that Lorraine Jenkin is on a roll and the best is yet to come. Many thanks, Honno for sending me a really entertaining read.
So you enjoyed Chocolate Mousse and Two Spoons? On the theme of chick-lit with a sure touch of place, find other Honno titles with Welsh connections by browsing their website. (I still think Eating Blackbirds is the best). Other entertaining chick-lit with that same rare blend of humane warmth and wit includes: Milly Johnson's The Yorkshire Pudding Club (er, Yorkshire); Melissa Nathan's The Nanny (about London) and Celestine Hituira Vaite's The Marriage Proposal (Tahiti).
Lorraine Jenkin was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
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