Published by Black Swan/Transworld
22 October 2015
“It smelled bittersweetly of sourdough, and there was the trace of hot, fresh bread in the air. She took a deep breath and unlocked the door”
Fifteen years ago Bettina May’s life’s veered off course in one disastrous night. Still reeling from the shock of losing everything she thought was hers, Bettina opens a bakery in a village and throws herself into the comfort of bread-making.
She spends her days kneading dough and measuring ingredients. She meets someone. She begins to heal.
Until someone who knows what happens that night walks into Bettina’s bakery. In the pause of a heartbeat, fifteen years disappear and Bettina remembers a time she thought was lost for ever . . .
Can she ever go back?
I have a confession to make. I was part of the blog tour for this book last year (with a great post by Stephanie – which you can read here) and although I read the book soon afterwards, I’ve only just realised that I never posted a review!
I haven’t yet read Surrounded by Water (or Letters to My Husband as it later became known for the paperback release), however The Other Half of My Heart was an excellent book to start with, being an intense and poignant read, with fully drawn, engaging characters and a story that had me hooked from the first page. As the book progresses, we find out why Tina became Bettina and also how her life changed so drastically some 15 years earlier.
It is clear that Bettina is a shadow of the person she used to be and is both physically and emotionally scarred. She opened her own artisan bakery and cafe in a small village, Adventures in Bread, and the bakery has become her life. She lives quietly – visiting her ailing mother in a nursing home and finding solace and comfort in her bread. Whilst she generally shuns relationships she gradually becomes close to her neighbour Rufus, a man with personal issues of his own. However although she slowly opens up to him, she will not allow herself to fully commit, leaving Rufus confused about their future.
The emerging friendship (sort of) relationship between Bettina and Rufus was as delightful to see as it was frustrating. The author cleverly weaves Tina’s past with Bettina’s present and once her history is known, the reason for Bettina’s reluctance to commit and why she prefers to stay alone becomes clear. There were times when I had a lump in my throat for all that Bettina had gone through along with the misunderstandings of youth and I desperately wanted her to find some happiness again.
This is not a light and fluffy story, it has much more depth. It is a beautifully written story of love and loss but also with an uplifting tone showing that with trust and love there is always hope. I loved this book and certainly want to read more by Stephanie.
Finally, for the foodies, if the bread tasting sessions at Adventures in Bread don’t make your mouth water, then the recipes for Scarborough Fair Cob and Rufus’s Favourite Chocolate Orange Cake at the back of the book certainly will!
My thanks to the author and publisher for the paperback copy to review.
About the author:
Stephanie Butland has written two books about her dance with cancer. Letters to My Husband was her first novel. She lives in Northumberland with her family.