It is 1919 and the end of the war has not brought peace for Emeline Vane. Lost in grief, she is suddenly alone at the heart of a depleted family. She can no longer cope. And as everything seems to be slipping beyond her control, in a moment of desperation, she boards a train and runs away.
Fifty years later, a young solicitor on his first case finds Emeline’s diary. What Bill Perch finds in the tattered pages of neat script goes against everything he has been told. He begins to trace an anguished story of love and betrayal that will send him on a journey to discover the truth.
“I closed my eyes as I tried to pick apart every flavour, because nothing had ever tasted so good before. It was love and it could not be hidden.”
What I Thought:
I’ve read many a historical novel where it flicks between two times periods, but as I started Where the Wild Cherries Grow, it was a great pleasure to find that instead of a past/present switch, it was between the near past (1969) and further back (1919) – the reasons for this become obvious, but I thought it was a nice little twist on the format.
It’s clear from early on that food plays an important part in the novel – from the wild cherries of the title, to the strange ‘crescent-shaped buns’ that Bill Perch first tries in a Paris railway station and the sumptuous dishes that Emeline learns to create – some of the descriptions are so evocative that you can almost imagine the strange new tastes and smells that both Emeline and Bill experience as they journey across Europe.
There are some extraordinarily maddening scenes in the 1919 sections, particularly those dealing with Emeline’s grief after the war, and her treatment by her male relatives. Her powerlessness is infuriating and it’s hard to blame her for trying to escape that life of unjustified confinement.
This really is a lovely book to read, with each of the time periods described well and without too much effort to cram in what I’m sure was a good deal of research. We really get a good sense of time and place without having to rely on real-world markers and, when they do appear, they are discreet yet unmistakeable.
Please note: I obtained this book through Netgalley for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.