Monday, December 8, 2014

Book review: The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

An enchanting little novel of hope and apple tarts, mixed with splashes of magic realism.

Disclaimer: This review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.

The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald (Published by Orion’s Children’s Books)
Sarah Moore Fitzgerald’s The Apple Tart of Hope  is one of the most delightful books I’ve read this year.  I’ve always been a huge sucker for quirky book titles, so when this one arrived on my desk, I absolutely knew I had to read it.

And what a captivating little read it turned out to be. 

With his penchant for baking the world’s most delicious apple tarts, Oscar Dunleavy has always been the kind-hearted, charismatic boy whom everyone loves and adores.

And no one is more aware of this than his younger brother, Stevie and his next door neighbour (who also happens to be his best friend), Meg.

So, when he goes missing and most of the town presumes that he’s dead, the only people who believe otherwise, and are determined to find out what happened to him, are Stevie and Meg. 

As days turn into weeks, and Meg starts giving into despair, it’s up to Stevie and a little thing called hope to remind her that in the magical world of apple tarts, there’s always, and I quote from the book jacket, “a crumb left.”

What they’ll come to learn is that things are not always what they seem, that everyone needs someone to believe in them when they’re taking that one extra step, and that friendship, loyalty and love are the very things needed to keep going when everyone else has already given up (It might seem cliché, but clichés are what they are because they’re true).

If you’ve been having a bad year and need a little pick-me-up novel, then the one book you should grab hold of is this one. 

Sarah Moore Fitzgerald’s Apple Tart of Hope is an exquisitely written book; one filled with so much beautiful prose and imagery, you’ll find yourself pausing at various intervals to just absorb her words.

To give you an example, I’m including this little quote from the below:

“When you grow up by the sea there's a kind of magic that never leaves you. The shimmery silver of salty mornings stays inside your bones. The rattling of windows on a winter night sharpens your senses. There's always power and deceptiveness in a flat blue sea. I'm a coast-town girl.  I know how quickly gentle water can turn into a foaming black mountain.”

Superb, isn’t it?

And if you think the writing is wonderful, just wait until you meet the characters.  From Oscar and Meg, to Stevie and Barney, Sarah has created a group of diverse characters who light up the pages of this novel with their radiant personalities.

Meg describes her best friend as someone who is kind of magic. And with his passion for saving people and baking apple tarts that can cure any malaise, it just doesn’t make sense that he would disappear.

So just what caused him to unravel? What would make a boy who has had everything to live for, disappear from the world?

The answer to that question?

A girl named Paloma; wicked, manipulative, nice-to-his-face-but-vicious-towards-him-behind-his-back, Paloma.

I won’t go into too much detail here, but suffice to say that she is probably one of the meanest girls I’ve come across in fiction. The lengths that she goes to in order to destroy a beautiful friendship (bordering on love), is absolutely shocking.

Meg and Oscar have always been close; so much so that she fights against having to go to another country for a few months with her parents. This plays a big role in the events that unfold, because Paloma uses this to her advantage; her systematic methods of breaking Oscar down showcasing the levels of self-loathing contained within her own self.

It’s a true testimony to the author’s writing ability when she creates characters that will leave you feeling discomforted and enraged by their bratty, entitled and vicious behaviour.

You’ll find yourself rooting all the way for Meg though; she’s a lovely and very sweet (without being saccharine) character. 

Her friendship with Stevie, Oscar’s younger and wheelchair-bound brother (a big yay for including a disabled character in the novel), is particularly heart-warming and I love how Sarah has written him – as if he’s a person whose disability does not define him. 

You often find authors including diverse characters as token roles, but Sarah has infused Stevie with a real, warm and very quirky personality that makes it impossible for you to dislike him.

A huge highlight of the story though is the friendship and budding relationship of Meg and Oscar.

It’s obvious that they share a special bond, and even though it’s tested severely throughout the novel, these two prove that a strong relationship can withstand the most malicious storms.


Do yourselves a favour – if you’re looking for a good bookish representation of hope, pick this one up; it will make you feel as if a torch has been lit up in the midst of your own dark circumstances.

0 comments: