In this funny and poignant novel, a handsome French baker looks like being the secret ingredient to refresh Esme's stale life. But is the recipe for happiness closer to home?'Esme's bread begged to be eaten. It pleaded. It beseeched. You simply could not be in the same room as her sourdough without licking your lips and instantly realising it was exactly what you felt like eating. No, more than that. It was exactly what you had been missing.' But all is not well in the House in the Clouds. Pog's gorgeous, garrulous, glutinous wife, Esme, is not her usual self. Her attempts at avoiding what's really troubling her are affecting everyone in the family, including her irascible father-in-law Henry and the mad assortment of animals they keep acquiring. What can a desperate, devoted husband do, except wait for the mayhem to abate?
As the crust of a sourdough boule protects the tenderness within, so it is with artisanal baker Esme Stack, who privately nurses a grieving heart while wittily coping with crises involving her dour father-in-law, Henry; the specter of her beloved, recently deceased Granny Mac; and an evil goat. Esme, her husband, Pog, and their four-year-old, Rory, have left their glam London life and moved to the Suffolk countryside after a tragedy so terrible it is long unnamed. Bread provides much subject matter and metaphor, especially with the reappearance of Esme's first lover, a sexy French artisanal baker. Lynch lets the dough of her story rise slowly, allowing the dread to build even amid the gossipy fun. Nestling a tragedy inside a comedy is a brave feat, and New Zealander Lynch (Blessed Are the Cheesemakers) almost pulls it off. Alas, the plot resolution centers on improbable actions by Charlie Edmonds, Esme's gay male best friend, and Ridgely Watson, the son of Esme's female best friend, who exists offstage until he appears to commit a final, dramatic and deeply unwise act. Lynch then resolves the story in a crescendo of moralizing, weeping and redemption. Like one of the breads Esme bakes, the story stays in the oven a little too long it's not perfect, but it's still good.