Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review: "The Brewer's Tale" by Karen Brooks



Synopsis:  It had been Mother's secret and mine, one passed down through the de Winter women for generations. I would ensure it was kept that way, until I was ready to pass it on.

When Anneke Sheldrake is forced to find a way to support her family after her father is lost at sea, she turns to the business by which her mother’s family once prospered: brewing ale. 

Armed with her Dutch mother’s recipes and a belief that anything would be better than the life her vindictive cousin has offered her, she makes a deal with her father’s aristocratic employer: Anneke has six months to succeed or not only will she lose the house but her family as well. 

Through her enterprise and determination, she inadvertently earns herself a deadly enemy. Threatened and held in contempt by those she once called friends, Anneke nonetheless thrives. But on the tail of success, tragedy follows and those closest to her pay the greatest price for her daring. 

Ashamed, grieving, and bearing a terrible secret, Anneke flees to London, determined to forge her own It had been Mother's secret and mine, one passed down through the de Winter women for generations. I would ensure it was kept that way, until I was ready to pass it on.

When Anneke Sheldrake is forced to find a way to support her family after her father is lost at sea, she turns to the business by which her mother’s family once prospered: brewing ale. 

Armed with her Dutch mother’s recipes and a belief that anything would be better than the life her vindictive cousin has offered her, she makes a deal with her father’s aristocratic employer: Anneke has six months to succeed or not only will she lose the house but her family as well. 

Through her enterprise and determination, she inadvertently earns herself a deadly enemy. Threatened and held in contempt by those she once called friends, Anneke nonetheless thrives. But on the tail of success, tragedy follows and those closest to her pay the greatest price for her daring. 

Ashamed, grieving, and bearing a terrible secret, Anneke flees to London, determined to forge her own destiny. Will she be able to escape her past, and those whose only desire is to see her fail?

A compelling insight into the brewer’s craft, the strength of women, and the myriad forms love can take.destiny. Will she be able to escape her past, and those whose only desire is to see her fail?



My Thoughts:  The Brewer's Tale is unlike any book I have ever read.  I wasn't sure if I would like it when I first picked it up, but it very quickly sucked me in.  It is an engaging tale of love, loss, and the complex world of brewing in the 15th century.

LikesThe Brewer's Tale was a fascinating look not only at the brewer's craft but also women's issues in the 15th century.  It was fascinating (and quite shocking) to be see just how little power women used to have and how one wrong move could completely ruin a women in the eyes of those around her.  All Anneke wanted to do was keep her family together and be able to support them financially but the obstacles she had to overcome and the degradation she had to suffer was just unimaginable and all because she was a woman.

I also enjoyed reading about the brewer's craft.  I knew nothing about the history of brewing prior to reading this book.  It was such a complex process and it's amazing to me that people were able to brew mass quantities of ale/beer in their basements. The book contains wonderful descriptions of the process and the equipment needed; I would love to see what that kind of set up would have looked like.  I also think the author did a great job of weaving information about brewing into the story so that it read like one cohesive story.

Also, I also I was very excited to see that there is an extensive author's note at the end of the book that gives very detailed information about the research the author did (and boy, did she do a lot of research).

Characters:  I love strong female characters and Anneke is most certainly that.  I liked that the author made her 'real' in that she was very strong and determined but at times, in the face of overwhelming adversity, she struggled to maintain that determination.  She seemed more well-rounded because of it.  This story has some of the kindest, most caring characters ever but it also has some of the worst villains I've read about in a long time.  Westel Calkin was a villain like no other; I don't remember the last time I've seen a villain quite so evil.  He was so manipulative and sneaky to begin with but when he showed his true colors, he was so evil and so horrible that at times, it was hard to read.  It's been a while since I've hated a villain as much as I hated Westel.  

Dislikes:  This isn't so much of a 'dislike' as an observation but the story was very dark at times.  It was hard to read in spots and I'm usually not so easily affected by things I read in books.  I was shocked by some of the horrors that Anneke and her family were forced to endure and at times it felt like they were never going to get a break.  I struggled at times with all the bad things that kept happening to them.

Overall, The Brewer's Tale  is an excellent book.  It had me staying up late several nights because I just couldn't put it down.  4 stars.

About the Author:

Karen Brooks has been an actress, army officer, academic and author. She was a member of the ‘Brains’ Trust’ on ABC TV’s The Einstein Factor for four years, is a regular TV and radio guest and writes a weekly column for The Courier-Mail. She is an award-winning lecturer, has a Ph.D. in English/Cultural Studies and currently holds the posts of Associate Professor and Honorary Senior Research Consultant at University of Queensland and Honorary Senior Fellow at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Somehow, Karen also found the time to write nine novels – five fantasy novels for young adults and three for the adult market, plus a non-fiction title called Consuming Innocence: Popular Culture and Our Children. Karen lives in a Georgian house in Hobart built in 1868 with her husband, four cats and two dogs. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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