Wednesday, February 02, 2011

By Alina Adams

I love soaps.

But, there aren't as many on TV these days as there used to be. (Kind of hard to miss, no?)

So, as confessed before, I make do with Soap Substitutes, nice, juicy family saga novels with multiple generations fussing and feuding and falling in love.

Alas, books are expensive. (Even electronic editions that cost nothing to print or ship.)

And I am cheap.

That's why I get so excited when I find a reasonably priced family saga e-book (in my case, that would be the $.99 cents price point) that's actually pretty good, too!

The Breadwinners by Jan Hurst-Nicholson is set in the cut-throat baking business of South Africa. (Did you know that baking was so cut-throat? I had no idea! But, seems it is.)

It follows the fates of a half-dozen families from the turn of the century to present day, as they all intertwine through, what else? Sex, money, and revenge. (I.e. The Good Stuff.)

The writing is clean, direct and moves very quickly, telling you the story more than showing it, describing characters rather than letting them reveal themselves (and pretty convinced that folks are either all good or all bad; not many shades of gray abound, and, when they do, they come a bit out of left field) but throwing in so many plot twists and turns that it really doesn't matter and keeps those e-pages turning briskly.

Considering the massive canvas he chose to work with, Hurst-Nicholson does a bang up job of keeping everyone straight and making it easy for the reader to do the same, from patriarch to inevitable illegitimate off-spring.

My biggest quibble - and this is purely personal - is that the author, who clearly knows a great deal about the baking business as well as life in South Africa - populates a book set in a country notoriously plagued by apartheid exclusively with white characters. (A few Africans make cameo appearances as workers and deliverymen, but that's it). Granted, that well may be the reality of the times. Wealthy, middle-class and even working class white families may honestly have never had any interactions with Black ones outside of brief shoulder-brushing on the job. But, it leaves the sense of only painting half a local picture.

Fortunately, the above are minor imperfections that can easily be overlooked.

Written right and priced right, The Breadwinners is a winner for soap fans!

Check it out below!

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