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Too much sugar
Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe - Jenny Colgan
Member Name: dee778
Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe - Jenny Colgan
Advantages: Some funny moments
Disadvantages: Simplistic and annoying plot
The story is a rather predictable romance centred around an idyllic café in north London. The main protagonist is Issy; a slightly plump, downtrodden secretary who suddenly discovers a small spark of rebellion when she is made redundant, investing all of her redundancy money to renovate and open a café in a small square in Stoke Newington. The unique selling point of this book is a loveable old granddad called Grampa Joe. Ex baker Joe brought Issy up after she was abandoned and taught her to love his profession. As a result cakes have paid a large part in Issy's life and she uses them to attract random friends at bus stops, the workplace and pretty much anywhere she goes. The plot centres around the struggle she has to open and make a success of the café, and her relationship with the unique and lovable characters that she meets along the way. Naturally there is romance and the reader is encouraged to page turn frantically to find out if Issy gets her man and makes a success of her café.
Every chapter starts with a cake recipe - something that I found intensely irritating as I have never had the desire to bake a cake in my life. I think there was a motivational message in each recipe, but it was one that I missed as I felt compelled to skip over every one. The love story was totally without artifice; I could absolutely predict the outcome of the book from the beginning - would Issy end up with handsome, self centred, cheating, uncaring boyfriend Graeme, or with the lovable banker Austin; a kind and sensitive man who cares for his 10 year old brother and often shakes his floppy hair out of his gorgeous eyes?
Although the character of Issy was well drawn she really is not a personality that appeals to me. She flaps and fumbles her way through life without any clue or sensible decision making, relying on a wide variety of charitable friends to tell her the basics such as how to negotiate a price with builders, how to apply for a loan, and how to cope when encountering an accident. Her contribution to proceedings is to bake and offer cakes to everybody with innocent and engaging candour. This really is not the sort of heroine I am drawn to - I prefer feisty feminist types, but Issy is the antithesis of this.
Other characters are mere caricatures; Issy's only employee in the café is Pearl. Yes, Pearl is a black woman... and yes, she is a very large lady, she lives on a council estate and of course she is a single parent. White women tend to be portrayed as skinny yummy mummies with large houses and four by fours - unless they are Eastern European, which makes them enigmatic and with mystical abilities to calm crying babies through the use of strange technique learnt from their grandmothers.
One theme is dominant - all plump or overweight women are the good guys; slender women are portrayed as skinny, ugly and neurotic money grabbers.
Although I understand that realism has no place in chick lit, it did also irritate me that the twee descriptions of Stoke Newington and the undiscovered café were so far from the truth. I have lived in Stoke Newington and know that a middle class café would probably be covered with graffiti, surrounded with rubbish and urine and perhaps would be vandalised.
I have no wish to be snobbish about this book. I enjoy relaxing with a good romance as much as the next person - but this book was just too twee, too sugary and too biased for me. Most of all the heroine Issy was just not my type of girl - dependant on men, dependent on Grandpa Joe, dependant on the guidance of sensible friends ... in the real world her café would never have got off the ground.
Jenny Colgan is British novelist, having written about ten very successful Chick Lit books, she also writes family style articles for The Daily Mail and women's magazines.
I remember reading and enjoying her analysis of her life in France, and bringing up her children in French society - and from these articles, aimed at the middle class domestic goddess, I can see exactly where her fan base comes from.
Meet Me at the Cupcake Café was published by Sphere in 2011. My paperback copy has 456 pages.
Summary: Not for me!