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Black Cake

"Crossing generations and continents, and laying bare the complexities of the Caribbean diaspora, this dazzling debut teems with heart-rending family secrets."

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LoveReading Says

LoveReading Says

Taking in generations of troubled lives, reinvented identities and family connections across the Caribbean diaspora, Charmaine Wilkerson’s Black Cake is a stirring triumph with an unforgettable matriarch, and love, at its heart.

When she dies in California, Eleanor Bennett's children are forced to face a succession of long-buried secrets about their mother’s life  - and to confront their own estrangement - when she leaves them her Caribbean black cake and a recording in which she tells the story of a young female swimmer who fled her Caribbean island in the aftermath of a murder. In her message, Eleanor instructs Byron and Benny to “share the black cake when the time is right”.

The novel unravels the siblings’ journey towards this “right time” through a masterful switching between the swimmer’s story and their present-day struggles with personal hurt, and the revelations of their mother’s recording. Spanning sixty years, the novel’s scope is immense, with nuanced detail on island life, the racism encountered by Caribbean commonwealth citizens in 1960s England (and by Byron in the present-day), and women’s struggles (“Why do we women let shame get in the way of our well-being?”).

Like the cake of its title, this is a richly flavoursome read. At once intense and subtle, it’s a story to savour and return to, when the time is right.

Joanne Owen

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