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Cursed Bread

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This was a stream of consciousness that read like a fever dream. I honestly didn't know what was happening most of the time but it being a short book it was quick to get to the end and most of the awensers.

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Another Women's Prize longlist nominee. This was so compelling for the first half, but then it just kind of fell apart. It seemed like the author was grasping at different threads, trying to mash them loosely together while remaining vague enough to be intriguing. By the end I really just didn't care. Maybe if I had read it in a different mood or all in one sitting, but I just wasn't feeling it. I do wish the author's note that this was inspired by an actual event had been at the beginning rather than the end.

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A dense, dark and weirdly erotically charged historical piece that I wasn't sure what to make of, but couldn't stop reading, couldn't put down, and became enraptured by.

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Eerie and interesting, like a more macabre Phantom Thread. I liked the narrative voice but was not as compelled by the ending after all the drama that led up to it.

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Cursed Bread offers an intriguing premise and touches upon thought-provoking themes, but its uneven pacing and underdeveloped characters detract from its potential. Sophie Mackintosh demonstrates skill in creating atmospheric moments, but the execution lacks the necessary depth and consistency to fully captivate the reader. If you are drawn to the concept and enjoy exploring abstract themes, you may find moments of interest in this novel. However, for those seeking a more cohesive and satisfying reading experience, it may not meet your expectations.

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Cursed Bread is based on a true story of a small French town. Mysteriously in 1951, the entire town began to have hallucinations, causing mass hysteria. The cause has been linked to spoiled bread sold in the town, but this theory has never been confirmed. Mackintosh takes this historical event as her backdrop, crafting a story of obsession leading up to the explosion of hysteria. Elodie is the baker's wife, living a simple life with her husband who is largely ambivalent to her. When a new couple arrives in town, Elodie quickly gets pulled into their orbit for better or for worse.

The way in which Mackintosh writes obsession between her characters is fascinating. She is able to slowly build the tension between Elodie and Violet, as well as Violet's husband the Ambassador, in a way that draws you in. You aren't quite aware of the level of obsession until you are fully immersed in the story. It as interesting to see the way that Elodie's fascination with Violet and the Ambassador verges into the territory of the erotic, which felt unexpected for the setting but somehow right for the story. As we see the story through Elodie's perspective, Violet's motivations are opaque; does she truly reciprocate Elodie's feelings or are she and the Ambassador up to something?

The ramping up of the tension of the book was excellently done. But when Elodie's story start to converge with the real events at the end, things got a bit muddled for me. It felt as though the story I had been reading got shoehorned into the historical setting, rather than one flowing seamlessly into the other. Overall, however, I enjoyed this book and all of its mystery.

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This book was strange, unusual, dark and everything I loved and wanted more of from the 1st book by this author. I first learned of this author from The Water Cure and this book has the same prose and darkness that the first book did. This is defn linguistic and may not be everybody's cup of tea but I loved it.

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Cursed Bread follows a woman who works in a bakery and becomes obsessed with a new couple that moves to town. Unfortunately, I really struggled with this book. I liked the toxic friendship at the start, and the obsessive feel overall, but it ended up feeling oddly stale by the halfway point.. I think a large part of the issue for me was that it didn't feel like it matched up with the synopsis that had made me so excited to read the story. After talking to someone that had finished the book about what I wasn't enjoying about the book, she confirmed that the rest of the book would continue in that way, and so I decided to DNF at the 110 page mark. I just think that the story was not evolving and continued to give just one feeling, which is fine but there also didn't feel like much plot progress or character development, and without any of those things, I just couldn't continue. I read this book for a reading vlog, I will link it when it goes live.

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Quiet and boring. Thoughtful and slow. Didn't astound me, didn't upset me. The delicious writing bumped the rating up for me a bit.

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Set in a small French town after World War II, <i>Cursed Bread</i> is the unsettling and strange tale of a town's mass poisoning. Told from the perspective of Elodie, the baker's wife, who becomes enamored with an American couple who moves to town weeks before the mass death. The novel jumps in time between memories of Elodie meeting Violet, the American, and letters from the current day to Violet, giving a glimpse into what has happened in the year since the poisoning.

This novel was strange, delightful, quite dark at moments, and full of the beautiful writing I expect from Mackintosh. Her writing makes it easy to keep reading. Fans of Ottessa Moshfegh, Jen Beagin, and Julia Armfield will find lots to like in this one. It feels fairy tale-esque, dark, and like a fever dream at many times.

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From what I did read of this I enjoyed. The formatting made it harder for me to follow the story.

Would definitely pick up a physical copy to continue.

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I made it 35% before giving up. I read the ARC version and it has so many typos I just can’t be bothered. I’m not going to make the effort if the publisher can’t be bothered, frankly. I actually hoped it was a purposeful strangeness, since the book is described as a town losing its mind, something like Ella Minnow Pea, but alas. It was very strange, so I sure I would’ve liked more of it.

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3.5 stars

this arc was unfortunately so difficult to get thru, due to the crazy amount of typos and spelling errors. otherwise, this was a fun, strange lil read about obsession, intimacy, desire & destruction.

thank you so much for the arc!!

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So sorry, but in particular with a book written through memory of a first person narrator I could not get past 1/3 of the novel due to serious print errors. All of the following combinations of letters were missing: "ff" "fl" and "fi" It was taking too long, particularly because of the nature of the novel. I don't know how I would have rated it because it just was taking me forever to figure out so many words. I'm not posting this anywhere, but I would have finished it and given substantive feedback if not for this issue.

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This book had a slow start and was a bit confusing to understand what was going on at first. The last 25% is the strongest piece and I wish the author had worked up to the fevered, frenzied energy and in twined that with the start of the novel to make the beginning less dry.

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“sometimes I think there's another animal growing underneath my skin, do you know what I mean?”

set in the small town of pont-saint-esprit in the aftermath of ww2, the baker’s wife, eloise, leads a monotonous life. when an enthralling couple moves to town, she is mesmerized by their wit and mystique, especially considering her own unfulfilling marriage. elodie is dragged into an erotic game by violet, the seductive wife.

“I can't tell if we are at the point where a good love turns bad, if we already passed it, or if it is up ahead for them still at this point.
I don't know really where love begins, though I've been trying to pin it down, and I know even less where it ends.”

in the background, hysteria brews around the town. animals drop dead, townspeople shock the community with violent deaths. mackintosh was inspired by the true events in pont-saint-esprit of a mysterious mass poisoning. although the event remains unsolved, historians speculate its origins are from spoiled bread that caused illness to produce hallucinations and death.

mackintosh blends mysterious nonfiction with the dark interiority of a main character driven crazy by desire. she embraces us with fevered envy and a loosening grasp on reality as elodie’s descent mimics the all-consuming hysteria gripping the town.

“sometimes reality peels back like the skin of an orange”

CURSED BREAD is a striking novel. through intoxicating character dynamics and visceral observations, mackintosh crafts unforgettable prose. despite wishing for more in the final scenes, this merely indicates mackintosh worked her magic (evil?) on me. she knows when to indulge and when to feed us breadcrumbs — always holding the power in this taut, bold novel.

CURSED BREAD will haunt, burn, whisper in your ear late at night. all i can do is dive into mackintosh’s backlist titles and they are just as wonderfully rotten.

4.5/5 ⭐️(rounded up)

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(3.5ish rounded) I enjoyed this, but I wish more of it had been like the end (which I loved). I think some of the exposition could have been cut or changed a bit, as I feel like the vibes were normal-ish until like halfway through when the vial arrives. Overall, I thought it was good and I would recommend it but I think my expectations were a bit too through the roof

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This was a stream of consciousness that read like a fever dream. I honestly didn't know what was happening most of the time but it being a short book it was quick to get to the end and most of the awensers. Elodie gave me single white female vibes and the town felt very similar to midnight mass (Netflix show) a very bizarre description for a bizarre book.

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Cursed Bread is a tale of violence, obsession, and desire that leads up to the mysterious mass-poisoning of a French village in 1951. Elodie, the baker's wife, lives a rather mundane life in the same small town her husband grew up in. She's grown increasingly frustrated with her life and her husband's refusal to have sex with her. When a new American ambassador and his haunting wife move to town she becomes obsessed with them both.

The story is told from Elodie's POV and felt very stream of conscious. I felt hypnotized by the writing and often couldn't tell what was real and what was imagined. The writing was wonderfully descriptive and naughty - Mackintosh had an incredible way with words and I will check out other works by her. I lost interest a few times during the middle of the book, but the final quarter hooked me again. The last moments were like something out of a horror movie and I wish they would have lasted longer.

Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday for a review copy of Cursed Bread.

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The ARC version was a bit hard to read to do the amount of spelling errors that kept taking me out of the story. So I wasn’t able to finish but I did but an actual copy and the story was sooo interesting. Sad the ARC wasn’t a bit better edited!

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