Author: Joyce Wayne
Publisher: Mosaic Press
Type of book: Judaism, cooking, typhoid, a swan among sparrows, marriage, ambition, intelligence, 1881-1900s, England, moving among circles, anti-Judaism in Victoria era, blackmail, mistress of the manor
Year it was published: 2013
Joyce Wayne brings to life the complexities of Victorian life, first in County Devon, and then in London’s East End. The big picture is about one woman’s life, class conflict, religious intolerance, suspicion, and betrayal. The central figure is Cordelia, a strong-minded Jewish woman who is caught between her desire to be true to herself and her need to be accepted by English society. The Cook’s Temptation is about a woman who is unpredictable, both strong- and weak-willed, both kind and heinous, victim and criminal. It is a genuine Victorian saga, full of detail, twists and turns, memorable scenes, and full of drama and pathos.
Oh goodness, the characters. They're humans, real humans. The main character is Cordelia, a daughter of a Jewess who enjoys cooking and who shared Judaism with her mother. In beginning she is best described as arrogant, but at the same time I had sympathy and understanding for her, to be stuck with people she can't connect or converse on things she wants. (Yeah, been my life a lot...except I didn't look down on them.) Due to her desperation, she marries Frederick Wendice. Frederick was a character I wanted to throttle, castrate and kill. I couldn't stand him at all, not his ignorance, self-righteousness, peculiarities, and his views of Cordelia's faith. Frederick really reminded me of my ex friend, and each time he showed off his ignorance I kept wanting to smack my forehead and tell him that he's an idiot. Unfortunately he's not unique or a character of the past. In fact, those who preach conversion to christianity hold a fragment of his views. I really hope I didn't offend anyone. There are also Frederick's mother who is also despicable, although not as much as her son. She wasn't as memorable as Frederick, sorry to say so, and the manservant Jack who shares Cordelia's ambitions and secret. I suspect that Jack has a lifelong love towards Cordelia.
If you listen to something long enough, then you begin to believe it.
The book is written in first person narrative completely from Cordelia's point of view. The story is also chronological and it tends to be psychological too. The world is done and written well, and its obvious that the author has done a great deal of research. Also, I have learned some interesting new words such as dollymop (prostitute?) and so forth. The book is a bit focused on cooking, but its not a story of rising to the top, but in fact the great amount of focus goes to typhoid and science versus superstition.
(From Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour)
When reading the book, I had mixed feelings about it: not that its good or bad because it was good, but I wasn't sure how to react to Cordelia's world. I can identify a lot with Cordelia, and although there were times I found her off-putting and unlikable. What I was puzzled about is whether or not to laugh at how people thought back then when it came to Jews, yet I didn't want to do it, and much of it remained among the ignorant. I guess this is what its meant by "dark humor." Despite the topic, I was really impressed with the way the author created the world, and how she planted doubts in me pertaining to Cordelia. Its a bit of a mystery except its a mystery that isn't solved. Some stuff in the book, namely Wendice hit way too close for comfort and its unfortunate that I used to know someone like him. I do hope that this book will educate today's modern youth that anti-Judaism was alive and well even before the Holocaust and WWII.
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(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)