Camilla Fetherwell lives in Boston but has close family ties in the UK. While entertaining and a romping good yarn this book also examines the challenges of those who settle far from home.The 'pull' of home for Camilla complicates her every move and it provides food for thought in this time of global translocation, of the destabilizing effects of migration. Camilla is coping with family loss, marriage loss, loss of youth with all that implies when it comes to motherhood, and a growing sense, as the book progresses, of lonliness. As an ex-pat Brit, living in the US, all these challenges are magnified and the author portrays Camilla as a gutsy young woman who despite her troubles would have it no other way. I love the sibling relationships she develops. Her older bossy sister whose life has been so circumscribed and the younger brother who has only recently come out as gay, reveal a scenario probably working its way through many other families as traditional norms and mores are challenged and changed. The plot is well developed and the author has little (and big!) surprises a long the way that keeps this book sizzling.
I loved it!
This book is an absolute pleasure to read. The characters are three-dimensional and flawed in ways that are both realistic and sometimes frustrating. All the better to advance the plot, and what a wonderful plot it is.
The reader follows divorced British caterer Camilla Fetherwell as she grows her business in Boston, navigates family issues in great Britain, and finds what? Love perhaps? On both sides of the Atlantic. Throw in a mysterious young woman who may hold the answers to a decades old mystery, and you've got the recipe (pun intended) for a page turner.
The relationships in this novel are handled with finesse and the settings are described so beautifully the reader can imagine sitting down for a cup of tea or strolling through an English garden.
This book is beautifully written and deeply satisfying. As a bonus it contains some of Camilla's favorite recipes.
Things are not what they seem in this tale of romance and family secrets. When professional caterer Camilla travels from Boston to attend her father's memorial in Cambridge, England, she rekindles an erotic relationship with a former lover. Like the lipstick that a photographer uses to pretty up strawberries for Camilla's webpage, the glossy surface of her father's life appears to hide ugly secrets. Camilla seeks the truth -- and, as in a good mystery, she follows clues that lead her (and the reader) down erroneous paths. A cast of believable, flawed characters moves the plot with its twists, turns, and surprises. As the action shifts between Boston, Massachusetts, and Cambridge, England, we find vivid descriptions of the locale and the changing seasons ("The snow had thrust a thick woolen scarf over the day."). Camilla's sumptuous meals tickle our taste buds -- we relish sensual descriptions of food she prepares for her clients and family. Some of her recipes, such as Coffee Walnut Cake and Chicken Citrus Soup, are included at the end of the novel as a bonus. In addition to good entertainment, this book conveys a wise message about life's unpredictability and our human desire for security. As one character puts it: "People are like limpets, cling to a bit of rock for a while, then get knocked off by waves...." This novel will satisfy readers who enjoy thoughtful romance, intriguing mystery, and good writing.
5.0 out of 5 stars
The main character in this excellent novel is a divorced caterer - a sophisticated romance with depth and emotional power.
A food photographer puts lipstick on a strawberry to make it gleam deliciously, if deceptively.
The main character in this excellent novel is a divorced caterer, Camilla, a Brit who set up shop in Boston, so the title works for her role. But it is also the perfect metaphor for the intertwined themes of this book. Not everything is as it first appears. What's hiding underneath the respectable cover might be a painful secret. Then again, strawberries in their unadorned state are quite delicious, so lift the lipstick and you might find exactly what you most desire. This book has plenty of tasteful desire, along with smart, complicated family dynamics and the realistic push and pull between human beings who love each other, siblings, parents and children, and, not surprisingly, lovers. There are so many layers to this tale, that you'll stay glued. There is so much that's smart and graceful about this book, you'll stay alive and engrossed.
Spence's language is a constant pleasure. Camilla carries her love of food into her way of seeing the world. People are often described as like this or that vivid edible. When Camilla looks at her sister Tilda and herself, she thinks, we both had hair the color of tea. Mine was a darker English breakfast while Tilda's reminded me of orange pekoe. Pay attention to that orange tinge, it matters. This is a tightly written, masterful piece with nothing wasted. It's hard not to love a novel that sets its arc before you with this twist of humor, irony, and insight: it was an amazing coincidence, it occurred to me now. I was rolling pastry when I met my first lover, and I was rolling pastry when my father died. Not that anyone could anticipate that bashing a piece of dough with a wooden cylinder would change your life. Depending on your mood, you trudge or hurtle through the days, and you can't possibly know what ordinary actions signify until much later when the pie is baked and the four and twenty blackbirds fly up to the sky.
Dip into Margaret Spence's Lipstick On The Strawberry and discover a delicious read.
5.0 out of 5 stars
Lipstick on the Strawberry is a highly entertaining and engaging first novel. Author Spence has a real facility with language and a keen sense of observation, whether she is describing food or physical surroundings or her multi-dimensional characters. As a New Englander now living in England, I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of the differences in the lifestyles, attitudes, customs, and idiosyncracies of the two countries, which were spot-on.
In less talented hands this book could have been an enjoyable but rather light romance -- however, it goes much deeper than that, exploring with sensitivity and skill the many interwoven themes relating to love, loss, loneliness, and complex family relationships. The plot is intriguing, with unexpected twists that keep you turning the pages.
A most enjoyable and satisfying read.
This book was fascinating, disturbing, and enlightening. The author created a commune that on the surface appears one way, but hides a lot of secrets and desperation underneath. The following statements are a few of my observations.
The research into plant life was so interesting that I wanted to discover more about it. The look inside animal activism and what really goes on in laboratories was incredibly sad to me. The description of how the Vietnam War draft worked was something I was unfamiliar with and it put a different spin on possible reasons for avoiding it. The whole idea of a free love utopia and the reality of actually making it work are two very different things and aren't necessarily achievable together.
I enjoyed seeing how the author blended all of this information into a cohesive story with characters that felt so real. I was hoping the main character, Maelle, would get the answers she needed, but also, as in real life, they were not the ones she wanted. The mystery aspect of the story was well-developed and I was inspired to do some research of my own into issues of that time. This book has given me a lot to think about.
A new world. It was always a new world, decade after decade. But it seemed to be happening outside the confines of Joyous Woods.
After the death of her mother, Maelle was raised by her hippie grandparents at Joyous Woods, a California utopian commune. Maelle, now a plant biologist living in the mainstream world, busy with her research and a serious boyfriend, is worried about what will become of her aging grandparents, who see their isolated world crumbling.
Hippies get old, too. Only Grandma JoJo has maintained the commune’s ideals. “The idea of living communally, sharing everything, never being alone, sustained her.” Now, the few members still living in the commune are forty years out of step with the world and too old and disillusioned to do the work needed to sustain the commune. Grandpa Neil, an old goat with a straggly ponytail who still thinks he has a way with the ladies, is considering a major change for the commune without the knowledge of its members.
In the middle of this, Maelle learns that her mother’s death may not have been an accident. I cared and cringed and scolded and cheered these flawed, messy, misguided, idealistic, sincere, and multidimensional characters who revealed that life in the commune can be just as messy and complicated as in the larger world.
Joyous Lies is not a love story, though it contains two subplots of beautiful relationships first that of shy botanist Maelle Woolley and psychiatrist Zachary Kane, and an unconventional yet often troubled one between Maelle's grandmother and her decades-long partner. I was hooked on Joyous Lies upon reading a description of falling in love unlike I've read before.
This is from Spence's character Maelle, . . . “underneath, in the hidden recesses of her body, she felt herself growing toward Zachary Kane like the underground networks of mycorrhizae connecting the trees of the forest.” The main story is awash with metaphors and vivid language connecting Maelle's work with plants to her life growing up in a working hippie commune begins when developers are interested in the land, while at the same time, a documentarian shows up to interview those still living at the old homeplace.
And then the su-SPENCE begins eeked out in shattering phrases. Maelle's relationship with Zachary is supplanted by horrific truths, not only about what went on at Joyous Woods in the sixties but also about Maelle's childhood. Seeking the truth beneath a viper's nest of anything but joyous truths, what Maelle finds brought to mind for me The Stepford Wives--that level of insidious manipulation, evil, and deceit.
As the story races to a conclusion, Maelle's devastation is complete. Her every belief is challenged. Yet she emerges as a woman of strength and summons the power to turn the past into concentric circles of redemptive joy.
Just finished reading Joyous Lies and was riveted to my Kindle for hours!! This book is a mystery, a love story, a science story, a history story--all linked together...It is also the story of a woman's search for the truth about her mother, her family, and their unusual lifestyle and upbringing. it is a story of the uncovering of Truth about what looked on the surface as an idyllic life. Nothing is as it seems... I loved this book!!
Maelle, a plant botanist starting her career, is wrapped up in her experiments to detect communication between plants. This absorption softens when she meets Zachary, a personable young psychiatrist. Even more distraction comes when she learns of a mystery surrounding her mother’s death years ago. As she probes the past, she discovers some surprising truths about the hippie commune farm where she grew up. Another crisis arises when the grandparents who raised her face the sale of the farm. Johanna, Maelle’s beloved grandmother, struggles with the loss of her home and an alienation from her husband.
In portraying the two main point of view characters, Maelle and Johanna, Spence gets inside their heads so well that the reader fully experiences their dreams and frustrations. Maelle delves into her mother’s career as an investigative journalist with ties to an extremist animal rights organization. Quarrying the past brings her into conflict with Zachery, who links her mother to his family’s tragedies. While Maelle uproots the past, Johanna fights to stay on the farm and save her relationship with her charismatic husband.
This novel will appeal to readers who want to share in detail the joys and sorrows of the characters. With Maelle and Johanna, the plot is enriched by the differing viewpoints of a younger and older woman. Spence engages the senses with close descriptions of cooking that encourage the reader to join the meals. Anecdotes about organic gardening make the realities of communal life seem real and practical. This is an excellent read for sympathetic characters who strive to lead the good life.