Crossing continents and juggling lives, Black Cake is a powerful story of love and loss, kinship and separation, heartache and hope, spanning sixty years in the life of one family...
Eleanor Bennett won't let her own death get in the way of the truth. So when her estranged children - Byron and Benny - reunite for her funeral in California, they discover a puzzling inheritance.
First, a voice recording in which everything Byron and Benny ever knew about their family is upended. Their mother narrates a tumultuous story about a headstrong young woman who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder, a story which cuts right to the heart of the rift that's separated Byron and Benny.
Second, a traditional Caribbean black cake made from a family recipe with a long history that Eleanor hopes will heal the wounds of the past.
Can Byron and Benny fulfil their mother's final request to 'share the black cake when the time is right'? Will Eleanor's revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?
'What an extraordinary debut. I was instantly taken in by this multi-generational tale of identity, family, and the lifelong push and pull of home. This novel has a tremendous heart at its centre, and I felt its beat on every page.'
Mary Beth Keane, author of Ask Again, Yes
Average rating from 103 members
This multigenerational and dual-timeline story is so beautifully written – I’m struggling to believe it’s Charmaine’s debut. The cake is the glue that holds all the layers together and the scenes are so well drawn that I could almost taste the cake, feel the warm sea on my skin. My heart broke and was put back together. Bravo.
Spanning generations and crossing different continents this is a very powerful and moving story. There is quite a cast of characters but each section is clearly named so you know who is who. This moves from the present day back in time and starts with the reading of the will of Eleanor Bennett. Unable to tell her children the truth but needing them to know before she dies Eleanor records her message to be heard with her solicitor and her children after her death.
Its quite a complex story with many, many layers but it flows really well. I think the short sections within the chapters of the book really help. I enjoyed Covey and Bunny and I didnt guess until the reveal who she was. I enjoyed hearing about her life and what happened to her. I think it was well written and I found it impossible to put down once I had started reading. I liked the ending it really tied up all the lose ends. There are lots of sensitive issues racisim and rape amongst the many but all handled and written with care and sensitivity. I absolutely loved this book and highly recommended it.
Crossing continents and juggling lives, Black Cake is a powerful story of love and loss, kinship and separation, heartache and hope, spanning sixty years in the life of one family. I loved the emotions this book puts the reader through. Stunning absolutely stunning!
This is the quickest I have got through a book in a little while. I very quickly became attached the main character Covey and wanted to understand how her children had become so disconnected from each other. I enjoyed the structure of the book with the story being told from the viewpoint of a different character in a different period of time. Moving at times, a great book from this first time novelist. I am not surprised this is being made into a TV series.
This story is incredible. It’s hard to describe the intricacies you find as each page is turned, how one event is linked to another, how a person could disappear and still find themselves. Despite originating decades back there is so much in the book that feels incredibly real and current. Byron’s daily experience of racism, Benny’s confusion over her identity, not to mention the consistent knocks that Covey experienced as a young black woman with no family support, Charmaine’s talent is obvious- to be able to intertwine so many interesting threads of a story around the black cake is just mind blowing. I absolutely loved it- a refreshing change to my usual genre.
The one thing I struggled with when reading this book is the fact that it's a debut novel! Staggering! The story is beautifully narrated from start to finish. Lots of characters throughout but rather than confuse, they just enhanced the tale and added true depth. I am without a doubt going to be purchasing multiple copies of this book as gifts so that family and friends can feel the beauty of Black Cake. I really think it would make a fantastic movie!
I would highly recommend this book, it was a beautiful read and really I was immersed in it from the first chapter, the story being woven round Eleanor's posthumous recorded message to her children worked extremely well, there were plenty of twists and turns too which kept you engaged to the very end
This is such a beautifully written book that is so full of layers that i think i could read it a hundred times and still get something new from this book. I think that the dual timeline aspect worked really well and i loved the characters, one of the best books that I have read this year
Where to start with this novel spanning generations of a family and countries including the West Indies, England, America and Italy?
At the heart of the story is black cake, a delicious West Indian concoction with a recipe passed through the women in the Bennett family.
But also at its heart are terrible secrets, friendships and loss that culminate in a deathbed testimonial read to three children by their mother’s lawyer.
I won’t say more: the stories are intriguing and come together beautifully.
Occasionally the author addresses some huge societal issues such as slavery and police harassment of black people and these feel a little clunky while hugely important, but this is a minor point in this beautiful and completely absorbing first novel.
Recommended: the great characterisation and plotting will stay with me for a long time. I’m bereft now it’s over!
A powerful, expansive, stunning debut. Centred on an audio recording left to estranged siblings Benny and Byron following their mother’s death, Black Cake ends up telling the stories of intertwining lives across generations. It is a story about identity, secrets, love, loss and the bonds that hold us together.
Wilkerson is clearly a huge new talent and I’ll look forward to seeing what she does next.
A beautiful ode to the Caribbean culture and history. The intertwined stories of generations throughout the years and continents. It is weirdly addictive for a fiction book and it goes to show how beautifully and cleverly written this novel is. Being of Caribbean heritage myself, I teared up a bit as I felt enveloped as well as overwhelmed by all the emotions brought up by “Black cake”. A magnificent story which should not be missed.
An amazing debut from Charmaine Wilkerson, this is a multi-generational tale of love lost and found.
This story is beautifully written, skilfully weaving together the characters to tell their tale of family and identity across the years. There are secrets to be uncovered, truths to be found out and of course, a hefty dose of romance with a dash of danger to speed things along.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and was fully immersed with Benny and Byron in their quest, right to the very end. The ending was satisfying without feeling cliched - I felt that I could almost taste the cake and made me think of my own grandmother's fruit cake recipe used for weddings, Christmas and any other big occasions!
“Sometimes, the stories we don’t tell people about ourselves matter even more than the things we do say.”
I really hope this book is made into a huge tv series like This Is Us. There are so many layers to these different generations of characters and their friends, plus their different locations, interests and cultures.
It’s almost impossible to summarise this book briefly because it could have easily been six seasons of an addictive show. But it all starts with an audiotape that Eleanor Bennett leaves to her 2 children, Byron and Benny, on her death bed. Many family secrets are revealed and one final dying wish is asked to be granted.
The story spans 60 years and multiple countries, mostly the West Indies, The UK, America and Italy, and explores all of the highs, lows and in-betweens of what happens when different cultures combine, as well as how the world changes over time.
My main (well, only) gripe is that the writing lacked a little flair. I struggled to find sentences to highlight as being particularly beautiful - one of my favourite things to do! But I understand that the impressive amount of plot points, events and timelines must have left little room for flourishes!
“I’m honored that the principle has invited me here to speak to you all today, as a kind of role model. But let me repeat myself. If you don’t see someone out there who looks like you, you need to go for it, anyway.”
Black Cake will be available from 3rd February 2022, thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.
Cleverly structured, I enjoyed the different character perspectives and the different settings.
Read it in one sitting - and would actually re-read, I found myself desperate to get to the end, but it’s really well written and definitely worth savouring it!
I very much enjoyed this tale. Lots of endearing characters experiencing various trials, tribulations, secrets, and intergenerational misunderstanding. The making and eating of the the black cake provides a constant thread throughout the book as well as some culinary and cultural history. The writing is engaging, plausible and flows - what an excellent book, it was a pleasure to read.
Thanks to the publishers and Net Galley for a free e-copy
Amazing! What a debut. couldn't believe when i got to the end and read about the author this is Charmaine's first novel. I absolutely loved story.
Black Cake begins by us being introduced to a brother and sister Byron and Benny meeting after not seeing each other for years when their mum passes away. A voice recording will reveal family secrets and tragedy's that will change their histories forever.
Set between the island (Caribbean) London and California I loved all the different descriptions of the different countries, including yummy food, vegetation and wildlife. Also loved the connection to the water, ocean and sea for most of the characters.
Flow, language and short chapters also made for a great read.
I will definitely be looking out for new books by this author and highly recommend any one looking for a book about family, love, loss and hope.
A cross-generational family story that will keep you guessing until the very end. Whilst the constant switching between characters sometimes preventing me from fully immersing myself into the narrative, ultimately all the twists and turns paid off in the finale.
I really enjoyed this book - it was emotionally powerful and raw in its intensity but also warm and moving. It holds you in its hands as you see love and betrayal, power and strength, hope and despair, compassion and cruelty - it has the lot!
This book tells the story of a fractured pair of siblings that come together following the death of their Mother. In doing so, her history is unveiled... The family must confront themselves and their sense of their past in new ways and find a new understanding of who and what they are.
The plot was pacey and the characters so strong that you felt that you knew them. I loved the strength of friendship that powers this book and the strength of spirit that is celebrated within its pages and across several characters. It was a fantastic read and I will be eagerly watching out for another one from this fantastic author.
Byron and Benny haven’t spoken for eight years but are brought together by the death of their mother and a recording she made for them about her earlier life. This is a powerful story about three generations of a family from the Caribbean. It spans Covey as a young girl, abandoned by her mother then married off by her father, to her life lived with hidden lies. I enjoyed the journey and it’s many facets. My only negative criticism is that climate change and the treatment of people of colour by American police seemed a little shoe horned into the story.
This was probably the most frustrating book I have read recently! Estranged siblings meet up at their deceased mother’s solicitors to hear a tape she has recorded telling them of a long lost sister they know nothing about! This is a story that tells us of the history, the pain and the anguish of a woman confused by her forefathers, of colour, of race, of tradition and of family! It could have, should have worked and been brilliant.! Instead it became confusing, long winded and irritating! We were buffeted from one generation, from one time zone, from one family to another, more people were introduced, names were changed and oh my goodness, it was all far, far too much! Such a shame as it had such promise! The story could just have been told from beginning to end - simple!
Black Cale is quite simply stunning. I got completely lost in the world of Benny and Byron and their family. It’s a book about so many things; family, identity, love, resilience, race, culture, belonging…. I could go on. Usually when a book is written in dual timelines I find I ‘prefer’ one to the other but this was absolutely not the case here. Both timelines were compelling and felt authentically written as well as historically accurate. The prose is beautiful and the plotting deft, surprising me with its twists and turns that felt like life, not devices. Just loved it.
Wow, what a fantastic book. It had me gripped from the start. I felt as if I was watching the story unfold. It made me sad, angry, tearful and happy in different points in the story.
I learnt so much from this book but in an interesting and informative way.
Looking outside my life and putting myself in someone else's footsteps was amazing.
I cannot thank Charmaine Wilkerson enough for writing this book.
A really well written book, that got better with reading, a bit like the ingredients of the cake! It tells an amazing story about relationships between families and friends and with a central theme of the Black Cake. It is not all sweetness and roses and tells of some of the pressures that young people had to endure in the West Indies during the 60s and early 70s