“Baking, very much like life, is about formulating the best possible outcome with the variables you are given.”
― Jessa Maxwell, The Golden Spoon
Jessa Maxwell’s novel The Golden Spoon is a mix of Clue and the Great British Baking Show. This book is a baking show with murder – it was practically tailor made for me! Jessa Maxwell is actually the pseudonym for cartoonist and illustrator Jessica Olein, whose work can be found in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and others. The Golden Spoon is her first novel.
Betsy Martin is a celebrity baker. In an effort to bring in money to keep her family home, Grafton Manor, in working order, Betsy created Bake Week over ten years ago. Every year, a group of six bakers descend on Grafton for a competition held in a tent on the lawn. They compete for the title of American’s best baker, a cookbook deal, the coveted Golden Spoon, plus other perks. Once filmed, the show streams online for all to see. While Betsy is grateful for the money the show brings in, it still barely covers the manor’s upkeep, plus she has to deal with the crew and bakers crawling all over her family home. It’s almost not worth it, especially with the changes happening this season.
For ten years, Betsy has hosted Bake Week by herself. Now the producers have decided they need fresh blood in the form of a younger, more popular cohost: Archie Morris, an award-winning baker and host of the show Cutting Board. Betsy is less than thrilled. She dislikes Archie and all he represents. Watching him interact with the bakers confirms her distaste. As Bake Week progresses, each baker’s personality presents itself. The commonality between all present, besides their love of baking, is their ability to keep secrets.
While I enjoyed this novel, I did find myself blindly trusting that all of the characters were telling the truth – should not have done that! This is a hodge podge of unreliable narrators that the author has woven together with subtle hints about their actual truths. Each chapter is told from the point-of-view of a different character. For the whole chapter, readers see what that character is thinking and how they are reacting to each presented scenario. This story was engaging, while the characters have fleshed out backstories. This isn’t a light and fluffy book as it does dig into the dark side of baking competitions (and there’s the pesky murder). All in all, a good read if you’re a fan of multi point-of-view novels. Here’s hoping there’s a sequel!