book reviews

Book Review: The Chocolate Tin

the chocolate tin

The Chocolate Tin
: Fiona McIntosh
Published: 2016
Publisher: Penguin Random House
My Rating: 4.5/5

“From the battlefields of northern France to the medieval city of York, this is a heartbreaking tale about a triangle of love in all its forms and a story about the bittersweet taste of life… and of chocolate.”

Until a couple of years ago, Historical Fiction was a genre that did not interest me in the slightest. Which is somewhat surprising as I have an interest in history, and in travel. I think my impression of the genre was one steeped in long-winded history lessons and slow moving stories, with stiff, wooden characters. I’m pleased to say that thanks to authors such as Pamela Hart, Natasha Lester, and Fiona McIntosh, my thoughts on the genre have changed dramatically. Historical fiction, at least in my limited experience, is far from boring. It is filled with interesting, layered characters, and is completed by compelling stories of the struggles and challenges of earlier times.

Fiona McIntosh’s latest offering, The Chocolate Tin, is exactly that – a story filled with engaging characters and heartfelt scenes, all set against the alluring backdrop of early 20th century York, England.

Set primarily in the English town of York during the first world war, The Chocolate Tin follows Alexandra Frosbisher, a strong-willed heroine with hopes of a career in chocolate making. Alexandra is constantly pressured by her parents, in particular her mother, to marry, which goes against everything Alexandra hopes to achieve. She then meets the charming Matthew Britten-Jones, who appears to be the most suited husband. One whom her parents approve, but one who will allow Alex the freedom of following her dream of making her own chocolate. But all is not what it seems, and when Alex encounters Captain Harry Blakeney at the end of the war, she realises what she may have forsaken for her convenient marriage.

It is hard to compound everything that is The Chocolate Tin in one paragraph. What I enjoy about Fiona’s writing, is the ease at which she layers both her characters and the story with intrigue, emotion, drama, and of course romance. Fiona achieves the perfect balance of building a story against a time in history which allows you to simply close your eyes and let her words paint the perfect picture of character, story, and setting. Her use of creating atmosphere and depth in her scenes not only through wonderful description, but also smell and touch, will leave you enamored throughout the entire book.

As for the heroine, Alex is such a likable character. She is strong-willed, modern-thinking and self-assured, but also very deeply emotional. You will follow her thoughts and actions throughout the book and be emotionally engaged in her journey, which creates the perfect page-turner.

Another thing Fiona gets right is the pacing of the story. What could be either a long drawn out saga, or on the other hand a fast-paced drama, is perfectly balanced. There is nothing irrelevant in the pages, and nothing is too lightly brushed over, creating a story that plays out like a movie reel.

I have read in some reviews that readers felt the story too predictable.  I can understand how some would draw this conclusion, after all, it is a love triangle. But it’s in the way Fiona delivers the story and throws in a few curve balls, that will make you want to keep reading.

Fiona has written a heart-warming, and thought provoking novel that is not only an enjoyable read, but one that will have your mouth-watering for some old-world chocolate. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Chocolate Tin is now available in all good bookstores, as well as through Booktopia online.