REVIEW: Days of Sugar and Spice by Clément Loïc, illustrated by Anne Montel
Rose is not a happy young woman; she is closed off and angry and she hates her job. But her life changes drastically when she inherits her father’s bakery in a small town in Brittany. Returning to a place that brought her both joy and grief forces her to confront painful memories of her past and find the courage to open her heart to a new, happier life that awaits her if she will just let it. A story about new beginnings, filled with small town charm, delicious pastries and the warmth of home and friends.
Dear Mr. Loic,
I saw this graphic novel and decided to try something different. This is, I think, the fourth or fifth (at most) one I’ve ever read. But the illustrations looked great and it has cats! There’s a lot packed into the story but for a variety of reasons, it didn’t charm me as much as I had hoped.
Rose is a graphic illustrator in Paris who is annoyed with her job and fed up with her boss. Word reaches her that her father – whom she hasn’t seen in twenty years since an acrimonious break up between her parents when she was a child – has died and left her his patisserie in a small Breton village. Annoyed at having to travel there to sign the papers to sell it, she arrives less than happy.
Learning that a winery is slowly taking over the town, now that the town’s main employer has gone bust, and allowing it to rot to make way for an American style theme park, Rose (eventually) has a change of heart and decides to stay to try and keep the patisserie (with a name that will eventually be explained) going. She is confronted by her childhood school friend (who is way too friendly and excited to see her because … twenty years with no contact) and a tart (word used deliberately) aunt who cuts Rose no slack.
There are also some darling cats who live near and around the patisserie and are also focused on getting Rose to stay because apparently some of them have sugar addictions (not likely in real life but in a graphic novel I’ll swallow [again deliberate] it).
Rose has a lot to learn about what really happened, how she feels about it, and whether or not she wants to stay.
The illustrations and writing work well together to tell the story. I did have to pay close attention and get used to how speech bubbles sometimes appeared opposite of the character actually speaking. Backstory is told in a handwritten style font that wasn’t always dark enough to easily read. There is a ghostly character in the background of some scenes who is ultimately proved to be sweet.
Les chats, sont adorables. Rose’s aunt is a force to be reckoned with. Gael is cute even if he is first a bit boisterous. I’ve seen some reviews that call Rose difficult and unlikable but the story shows the upbringing she had and I think gives adequate cause for why she is initially as she is.
There is a bizarre scene in the book where Rose’s friend Mei has a discussion with two immigrant Muslim vineyard workers and their friend about whether that is haram and if it’s not allowed then the fact that France taxes wine and uses some of that money to pay for social programs would mean that Muslims couldn’t live in France. I read it thinking “WTF. Why is this even here?”
The romance was also a bit lukewarm for me with one character dragging on it before suddenly at the end, everything had been quickly worked out for a HEA end. Rose does have to face her past and come to peace with things she can’t change. In the end, it looks as if the patisserie will thrive. The cats are happy but I wish more had worked for me. Read it for the lovely illustrations and, of course, les chats. B-