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Charmaine Wilkerson, Author Of 'Black Cake', On Family, Food & The Connections We Can't Escape

If you have ever sunk your teeth into a moist, perfectly baked Caribbean rum cake, you will know the feeling that I’m going to describe to you. Imagine your teeth skimming the outermost layer and already you can sense the thick, headiness of the alcohol and taste the sweetness of the sugar and fruit. If you ever had second thoughts about finishing this bite, it’s too late, your teeth are sinking through the softness and once your tongue is fully assaulted with the combination of flavours, it’s over, it’s a done deal. Is there such a thing as moderation when sat in front of black cake – as it is also known? Whatever is in front of you compels you to finish it – and this was how it felt reading Black Cake, the debut novel by Charmaine Wilkerson.

The book opens with a storm, and a father on a Caribbean island in the 1960s is waiting for his daughter’s body to wash ashore. The rest of the book takes you across time and continents and countries, the narration weaving between estranged siblings and a cast of characters brought together by the death of a woman, Eleanor Bennett. Eleanor’s children are forcibly reunited by her lawyer and the last black cake their mother ever baked, and the reader is thrust into a world of secrets, survival and the unravelling of a history that will turn Byron and Benny Bennett’s world upside down.