Hetty’s Farmhouse Bakery by Cathy Bramley – a Cumbrian woman wonders if her pies may be her future

Hetty's Farmhouse Bakery: Amazon.co.uk: Bramley, Cathy: 9780552173940: Books

Hetty’s Farmhouse Bakery by Cathy Bramley

 

Hetty is a farmer’s wife, a mum to Poppy, and will bake pies for every good cause in the area. However, when Poppy is asked which woman she admires, it is her aunt Naomi she names, and Hetty begins to think that she wants an independent role, not just to back up her busy husband. While she loves her husband Dan he is completely wrapped up in the family farm that he inherited unexpectedly early before he could follow his dream of training as a vet. She gets on extremely well with her sister in law who runs a farm shop, her mother in law who lives locally, and her life long best friend Anna, single mother and school nurse. 

 

This is a novel of a woman who realises that she wants to establish something for herself, her own business, a new start surrounded by those whom she loves. Set in the beautiful hills of Cumbia, this is a book which establishes a sense of a lovely if remote place, where the community is close and gossip spreads. It looks at the life of contemporary farmers who diversify into other ventures to survive. It examines long term relationships and friendships, old and new romance, and new opportunities. Hetty tells the story from her own point of view, and Cathy Bramley is so skilled at creating a voice of a lively and sometimes confused woman. Hetty’s particular talent is making free form pies with delicious short crust pastry, and it is this skill which she believes she can use to establish her own business, and much of the novel describes how she tries to do so in the face of unforeseeable difficulties. With funny dialogue and some moving moments, this is an engaging and endearing book.

 

The book begins with Hetty meeting Anna at the parents evening for their respective children. Bart, Anna’s son, is a match for Poppy who has a cheeky sense of humour, whereas Hetty’s nerves and style is to blurt out what she is thinking, much to the embarrassment of her offspring. Rusty, Hetty’s much loved and elderly dog is ill, and the situation makes Hetty reassess her daily life. When Naomi secretly enters Hetty’s pies for a competition for best Cumbrian foods, it makes Hetty wonder if she could do more to establish the sale of her pies through different outlets and create a business. As she receives an exciting invitation it creates tensions with her husband, and begins to make her reconsider past loyalties.

 

This book can be seen as quite a light read on one level, with a family and friends at its heart. Yet it also has a lot to say about the role of women within a community and a marriage. Hetty’s situation is not uncommon in contemporary life, with a long time relationship which has its challenges and secrets. I found it really enjoyable and difficult to put down, as I became so involved with Hetty’s discoveries and decisions.The dialogue is lively and realistic, funny and endearing. This is an entertaining book which I really recommend to anyone who enjoys a book with a light story with deeper themes.

 

 Anyone who reads this blog regularly will realise that I enjoy a variety of books, and the difference between this book and yesterday’s sizable novel of much of John Ruskin’s life is considerable! 

A Patchwork Family by Cathy Bramley – when love and romance takes many forms in a village

A Patchwork Family by Cathy Bramley | Waterstones

 

A contemporary tale of a woman who finds the value of asserting herself in order to get what she actually wants becomes in Cathy Bramley’s hands a well written account of life and many kinds of love. Gina loves her life in a small friendly village where she has established herself as a child minder, but there are things to surprise and worry her. Her friendship with three extraordinary older people means that she suddenly resolves to be different and work for what she actually wants in this book of family of many types. She feels that her parents have ignored her, she has drifted into divorce, and that real love has eluded her. It has taken a crisis to convince her that she must change and fight for what she wants and some other people need. Her friendship with all sorts of people in the village means that Bramley skilfully raises the idea of all sorts of families and all sorts of love in her memorable characters. This book is a blend of tales of village life and the story of one woman who discovers her ability to fight for greater opportunities.

 

The book opens with a meal to mark Gina’s divorce from Eric, well known to be amicable but demonstrating her attitude of consideration, as she has agreed to accept that he will carry on running their business with her ten per cent shareholding. She returns to her cottage, small and packed with the equipment she needs to run her highly successful childminding business, which she does with flair and a real affection for the children she  cares for. She has friendships in the village with another childminder and the owner of a local cafe. Her strongest relationship is with Violet, Delphine and Bing who live in a lovely large house which is on the same estate as her cottage. When she is asked by the temporary head teacher of the village school to help with a pair of twin girls, Isabel and Lily, she is impressed with his concern for all the children. Tragedy strikes, and there is a sudden impetus to make the most of life in every way as well as find a new home for not only herself but two vulnerable people. To confuse the matter further she encounters someone who gives her mixed messages, but that she soon realises is very attractive in lots of ways. As special events draw near, she realises that if she is going to succeed it is not enough to be an excellent childminder, but also come up with viable plans.

 

This is a book which as well as telling a light hearted story makes some strong points about the battles of love and relationships in a small village. There are several developments which are surprising, but are all within the bounds of credibility and fit well into the story. Not all the story takes place within the village, and there is a spectacular visit elsewhere. I found this a really enjoyable book, full of hope and genuine affection. This is a lovely read which I recommend to all those who enjoy these contemporary tales of romance and human interest, with humour and understanding.  

 

I wrote a post about comfort reading the other day, and several people commented with their favourites, many classics such as Georgette Heyer and Angel Thirkell, who I thought was less well known today. It is a good thing that Virago Modern Classics have reprinted quite a few so that many people can get access to her novels. Not many people mentioned this light sort of contemporary book, but they are undoubtedly a cheerful read which many people enjoy. Keen readers of this blog will know that I have been enjoying Trisha Ashley’s books over the last few months, and there is no shortage of  (mainly) women writers who produce this sort of cheerful female led book. Have you got any favourites?