The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan

The Baker's Secret

From the critically acclaimed author of The Hummingbird and The Curiosity comes a dazzling novel of World War II—a shimmering tale of courage, determination, optimism, and the resilience of the human spirit, set in a small Normandy village on the eve of D-DayOn June 5, 1944, as dawn rises over a small town on the Normandy coast of France, Emmanuelle is making the bread tha...

Title:The Baker's Secret
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:006236958X
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:320 pages

The Baker's Secret Reviews

  • Sue
    Mar 25, 2017

    I read a lot of WWII fiction and this is one of the best that I've read that concentrates on the suffering of a small town in France during the occupation. The people in the town don't have any real idea of what is going on in the big picture of the war, they mainly know how it is affecting them to have German troops occupying their town and ruling their lives.

    The novel takes place in the village of Vergers, a small village in France about a mile from the ocean and centers around the town baker,

    I read a lot of WWII fiction and this is one of the best that I've read that concentrates on the suffering of a small town in France during the occupation. The people in the town don't have any real idea of what is going on in the big picture of the war, they mainly know how it is affecting them to have German troops occupying their town and ruling their lives.

    The novel takes place in the village of Vergers, a small village in France about a mile from the ocean and centers around the town baker, Emma. Emma had been ordered by the German command to bake 12 loaves of bread for them every day and was given enough flour to bake just 12 loaves. Instead she mixed ground up straw with her dough so that she had enough dough to make 14 loaves and could share 2 loaves with the people in town who were the hungriest. Even though her mentor had been killed by the Germans, her father had been sent away on a train and her boyfriend had been sent to join the German army, Emma still felt that it was her duty to help the people in her town as best she could. Emma is courageous and puts her life on the line to help the people in her town. She doesn't think of herself as heroic but feels that she is doing what needs to be done to help people get through each day.

    The author does a fantastic job of depicting the realities of war on the people who are not part of the fighting but are the collateral damage of the war. He gives an honest portrayal of the indignities that the Germans forced onto the citizens and depicts the lives of the people who are starving and desperate in detail. This is a novel about looking for a flicker of light in the darkness and being able to find it with the help of friends.

    Thanks to LibraryThing for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  • Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
    Mar 22, 2017

    THE BAKER’S SECRET takes us to a small village in Normandy during WWII. We follow Emma, her family, and the village as they live under the restraints of German occupation. The village citizens work together to stay alive and to help each other.

    Emma is a very strong female character that you can't help but sympathize with and fall in love with. She is someone you would love to have had in your village during WWII.

    Emma's strength and subtle resistance to the Germans was amazing. Emma knew how to b

    THE BAKER’S SECRET takes us to a small village in Normandy during WWII. We follow Emma, her family, and the village as they live under the restraints of German occupation. The village citizens work together to stay alive and to help each other.

    Emma is a very strong female character that you can't help but sympathize with and fall in love with. She is someone you would love to have had in your village during WWII.

    Emma's strength and subtle resistance to the Germans was amazing. Emma knew how to be subversive and still stay alive.

    Emma's role in helping to save the residents of her town was to follow the Kommandant's order to bake bread for him and his men every day.

    Emma had a secret about baking this bread. She would sneak in two extra loaves to share with the townspeople by stretching the number of required loaves by two.

    THE BAKER'S SECRET shows the unity the Europeans had to have in order to survive.

    The characters were authentic, and you will become immersed in their lives and suffer with them as well as silently cheer with them when the courage they share turns in to a triumph.

    I thoroughly enjoyed THE BAKER'S SECRET. The writing is marvelous and detailed. The book is one you won't want to put down.

    If you read only one book this year, make it THE BAKER'S SECRET.

    THE BAKER'S SECRET is a wonderful testimony and tribute to the people who lived through and survived WWII. 5/5

    This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.

  • Kevin
    May 11, 2017

    Emma has learned how to bake bread, pastries, cakes and the most beautiful creations trained by her critical mentor, Ezra. Ezra has been the village baker since before she was born. She is forced to watch him wear the six-pointed star of David by the German occupiers of her coastal Normandy village. The Nazi kommandant notices the bakery and commands Emma to bring him 12 loaves of bread every day. His men bring her the flour and other ingredients used to make the bread. In order to help feed as

    Emma has learned how to bake bread, pastries, cakes and the most beautiful creations trained by her critical mentor, Ezra. Ezra has been the village baker since before she was born. She is forced to watch him wear the six-pointed star of David by the German occupiers of her coastal Normandy village. The Nazi kommandant notices the bakery and commands Emma to bring him 12 loaves of bread every day. His men bring her the flour and other ingredients used to make the bread. In order to help feed as many of her neighbors as possible, Emma adds ground up hay to the bread mixture to make 14 loaves instead of 12.

    This is Emma's first act of defiance to the occupiers but certainly not her last.

    An excellent story that brings the occupation of France and the D-day invasion to life. This book reminded me in part of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society" and the darker "Skeletons at the Feast."

    I really enjoyed this one!

  • Cindy Burnett
    Apr 29, 2017

    There are many stories still to be told about World War 2, and I love to read as many of them as I can. The Baker’s Secret ranks at the top of my list of books about this era along with Jillian Cantor’s The Lost Letter (out in June 2017). Stephen Kiernan’s writing is beautiful and magical, and his characters are authentic and brave beyond words. The story takes place in Vergers, a French town on the Normandy coast on the eve of D-Day. The town is occupied by the Nazis who have beaten down the to

    There are many stories still to be told about World War 2, and I love to read as many of them as I can. The Baker’s Secret ranks at the top of my list of books about this era along with Jillian Cantor’s The Lost Letter (out in June 2017). Stephen Kiernan’s writing is beautiful and magical, and his characters are authentic and brave beyond words. The story takes place in Vergers, a French town on the Normandy coast on the eve of D-Day. The town is occupied by the Nazis who have beaten down the townspeople with countless acts of cruelty including rationing food to the point that everyone is slowly starving. Even after digesting countless novels about Europe during World War 2, I am still stunned and angered by the intentional and horrific cruelty the Nazis inflicted on anyone who crossed their paths, including the people living in the various places they occupied. The opening portion of this book focuses on several such incidents which made me worry the entire book would be very depressing. However, as the story progresses, Kiernan tells the wonderful tale of the courageous baker Emmanuelle and her fellow villagers who worked to defy the Nazis in their own subtle ways. The Baker’s Secret is still a tear jerker (have plenty of tissues handy!), but the book’s message is one of optimism and the ability of humans to overcome even the most tragic circumstances.

    The ending of the book is phenomenal. I cannot say much more without spoiling the story, but once you hit the last 80 or so pages be prepared to do nothing else but read until you finish this wonderful book. I highly, highly recommend The Baker’s Secret. It is truly a must-read. Thanks to Great Thoughts, Great Readers and the publisher for my copy of this ARC.

  • Diane S ☔
    May 07, 2017

    IT IS June, 1944 and this small village in Normandy is under the occupation of German forces. Many have been shot or taken prisoner, but many are left alive, their services integral for the German forces.one such person is 22 year old Emma, once the Baker's assistant, she is now responsible for baking the baguettes a high ranking German officer finds he cannot do without.

    Emma no longer believes in her faith, nor does she have any belief that the allied forces will come to the rescue. With that

    IT IS June, 1944 and this small village in Normandy is under the occupation of German forces. Many have been shot or taken prisoner, but many are left alive, their services integral for the German forces.one such person is 22 year old Emma, once the Baker's assistant, she is now responsible for baking the baguettes a high ranking German officer finds he cannot do without.

    Emma no longer believes in her faith, nor does she have any belief that the allied forces will come to the rescue. With that in mind, she sets out to do her best to ensure the survival of those left in the village, many who are slowly starving to death. Although this subject has been replayed many times in novels, the characters set this one apart. The characters are varied, from different occupations. from the resistance, to farmers, fishermen, and one young woman finds her own, frowned upon way, to survive. Emma who knows the town's pathways and short cuts better than most, finds ways to get things to those most in need. She is spunky, clever, and formidable, though this will put her in harms way.

    When the invasion of Normandy finally does come, the scenes are horrific, as history dictates. A finely written novel, with some unique characters that captured my interest early on. It is often the people that risk much, that save many. The Germans are stereotypically portrayed with a few exceptions. This is a read I took to heart.

    ARC from publisher.

  • Gemma
    May 28, 2017

    The Baker’s Secret is about the experiences of a Normandy village under the Nazis. It aspires to be a kind of fable and its whimsical chatty tone (not quite of the “dear reader” variety but not far off) irritated me until I got used to it. I was suspicious that the author was trying to cash in on the success of The Book Thief and All the Light We cannot See – world war two as adult fairy story. All the characters are both larger and smaller than life – ordinary people who have been given an exag

    The Baker’s Secret is about the experiences of a Normandy village under the Nazis. It aspires to be a kind of fable and its whimsical chatty tone (not quite of the “dear reader” variety but not far off) irritated me until I got used to it. I was suspicious that the author was trying to cash in on the success of The Book Thief and All the Light We cannot See – world war two as adult fairy story. All the characters are both larger and smaller than life – ordinary people who have been given an exaggerated defining trait, often of a comic nature. There’s a mad boy who climbs trees, a wastrel who sleeps with pigs, a priest who appears sympathetic to the Nazis. An odd thing about this novel is there aren’t any resolutions to the few mysteries it poses. At the end of the day there’s little at stake save the safety of the characters. No subplots of note.

    Eventually I did begin to enjoy the story but I’m not sure about this new trend of moondusting what the Nazis did. There were one or two moments when the feelgood fairy story tone of this jarred. For me an accomplished rather than an inspired novel. 3.5 stars.

  • Carrie Schmidt (Reading is My SuperPower)
    May 26, 2017

    The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan shines a spotlight on the resilience of humanity amid the brutality of war. At times it’s tempting to look away, to ignore the rawness of survival, to pause the bleak hopelessness that clouds Emma’s life. It’s painful to see the abuses of the church’s Monsignor – a man who should, by his very job description, be the source of hope and integrity in the occupied village. The honesty is graphic in places, discreet in others, and in every aspect of the story

    The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan shines a spotlight on the resilience of humanity amid the brutality of war. At times it’s tempting to look away, to ignore the rawness of survival, to pause the bleak hopelessness that clouds Emma’s life. It’s painful to see the abuses of the church’s Monsignor – a man who should, by his very job description, be the source of hope and integrity in the occupied village. The honesty is graphic in places, discreet in others, and in every aspect of the story humanity’s fierce will to survive is both inspiring and sobering.

    I loved reading about Emma’s craftiness in figuring out how best to help the starving and otherwise needy villagers (thanks to the Nazi occupation) all while avoiding detection. She vehemently denies being part of the Resistance, yet it’s her work that enables the local Resistance movement to thrive. While harsh and bitter loss follows her, Emma’s strong will remains resilient. Her grandmother is my favorite character in the book and I often wanted to stop reading just to hug her.

    The writing is beautiful, almost poetic, with haunting lines such as:

    “The guttural ruled the elegant, the command replaced persuasion, the shout overwhelmed the subtle.”

    And this description of what the Allied invasion meant to the people of France, especially to Emma:

    “The weight of their sacrifice might crush her. Here they had died, and up the beach they were still dying, in flocks and willingly for the idea that she, Emma herself, and her friends and family and neighbors, ought to live in freedom. Who on earth deserved such a gift?”

    Bottom Line: The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan is exquisite in its prose and authentic in its execution. Its reality is painful, yes, but inspiring at the same time, and readers will gain a deeper understanding of both the occupation of France and the importance of D-Day and the subsequent Allied sacrifices. Keep a tissue box handy, but read this book with hope, hope that Emma doesn’t have. You already know what happened on June 6, 1944, but now see it with fresh eyes from the heart of a young woman who didn’t dare believe it was possible yet helped make it so.

    (I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book)

    See my review at

  • Erika Robuck
    Jun 26, 2017

    Emmanuelle is bitter. The traumas she suffers and witnesses age her beyond her twenty-two years. The war is consuming everything and everyone she loves, and she has lost all hope that the Allies will help. And yet…

    Her youth and her intelligence call her to action. One small act of defiance (adding a bit of ground straw to her flour rations as town baker) allows her to increase her yield from twelve to fourteen loaves–enough bread to satisfy the demands of the Nazi occupiers, with two left over t

    Emmanuelle is bitter. The traumas she suffers and witnesses age her beyond her twenty-two years. The war is consuming everything and everyone she loves, and she has lost all hope that the Allies will help. And yet…

    Her youth and her intelligence call her to action. One small act of defiance (adding a bit of ground straw to her flour rations as town baker) allows her to increase her yield from twelve to fourteen loaves–enough bread to satisfy the demands of the Nazi occupiers, with two left over to secretly distribute to the townspeople.

    Yet it is not enough.

    Each deception exposes a new desire. Each desire inspires a new idea on how to undermine the Nazis to obtain it. Each little triumph keeps the spark of hope glowing in the people of the town. Even for those Emma dislikes or who dislike her, they are bound together in their shared wish to see the destruction of the oppressors.

    THE BAKER’S SECRET beautifully demonstrates the power of small acts done with great care, and the ripples that expand outward from those acts. In spite of how hardened Emma has become, she is a protagonist with whom the reader forges a strong alliance. Her sorrows are ours. Her pain is ours. Her joy, ours.

    Kiernan is a writer of enormous talent, and this novel is a triumph. The reader knows D-Day is coming, and can hardly wait for Emma to find out. In spite of knowing the catalyst for the climax, there are still many surprises; so much is revealed when June 6th, 1944 finally arrives.

    I read the novel in a weekend, and I already know THE BAKER’S SECRET will my make my “Best of” list of 2017. I give it my highest recommendation.

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