Nutmeg by Maria Goodin

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Nutmeg by Maria Goodin

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: A thought-provoking and powerful novel about fact and fiction, reality and fantasy. Some quirky humour, some poignancy, some unexpected revelations, and a very gentle love story.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 270 Date: April 2012
Publisher: Legend Press
ISBN: 9781908248244

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Meg was rather underdone when she was born. Her mother ate lots of eggs during pregnancy, in the hope of giving her a good glaze, but instead she came out clucking like a chicken, and was fortuitously caught in a frying pan by the gas man...

It wasn't just her birth that was unusual, either. Meg's mother often chased runner beans around the kitchen, and had a hard time keeping the toads from jumping out of the batter when she cooked toad in the hole. When she made meringues, they were so light that they floated to the ceiling. ​

At least, these are a few of the stories which Meg was told as fact by her mother, who is a compulsive and eccentric cook. She believed everything until her schoolfriends started calling her a liar. Oddly enough, she can't remember anything whatsoever about her life before she was five, so when she realises that her mother's stories are not true, she feels quite lost, wondering who she really is - and whether her father really was a romantic pastry chef who died in France, as her mother has always claimed.

Meg decides at a young age to give up on fiction entirely, and concentrate on facts. She makes herself become entirely logical, and excels at sciences. When we meet her, aged 21, she is a brilliant genetics student, engaged to a rather dull PhD lecturer. However, she has to put aside her studies for a while, because her mother is dying. A chance scrap of paper stuck in a suitcase leads her on a journey of discovery, where she uncovers some of the real, often unpleasant facts of her past... and then has to decide what to do with them.

I wasn't quite sure what to make of the early part of this book - is Meg's mother crazy? A pathological liar? Or was the book intended to be somewhat whimsical, along the lines of some of Cecelia Ahern's novels? It didn't matter for long, as I was quickly drawn into the story. While I did not like the fiancé - whose name I have, happily, forgotten already - I felt for Meg, and rather liked her strange mother. I was also quite taken with the tatty gardener. And once the story of Meg's past started to unfold, I was totally hooked, and finished the novel in just a couple of days.

Overall, I felt that this novel was quite thought-provoking, showing how difficult it can be to separate fact from fiction, and leaving open the question of whether it may sometimes be best to live in a world of fantasy. The writing is good; if the people are a little caricatured, it somehow doesn't matter. I loved the odd stories that Meg's mother told her, and found parts of the story very moving. I was surprised at how positive and satisfying the ending was, too.

Recommended; this could appeal to teenagers wondering who exactly they are, as well as adults.

Many thanks to the publishers for sending the book.

For a more obviously whimsical, but still thought-provoking story, you might like A Place Called Here by Cecelia Ahern. And for a teenage book where fact and fiction mingle, you could try Tall Story by Candy Gourlay

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Buy Nutmeg by Maria Goodin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nutmeg by Maria Goodin at


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