Cover Image: Cursed Bread

Cursed Bread

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Member Reviews

A fever dream of obsession, envy, desire, and the collective descent into madness of a French village in 1951. I was completely mesmerized,

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Cursed Bread read less like a novel to me and more like an ekphrastic prose poem, as if the mass poisoning in 1951 of the people of Point-Saint-Esprit were a work of art, and that moment in time could be peeled back and exposed from multiple angles by a single narrator, Elodie, without reference to anything outside the picture’s frame.

There is almost no story to follow, only Elodie’s internal dialogue to anchor us in time and space. The writing is lush, evocative, ripe and round, erotic. The style reminded me of the French New Wave, maybe Nathalie Sarraute or Marguerite Duras but with a more disturbing and dystopian bent; the main themes of obsession and surrender, always with cruelty’s sharp blade, of Claire and Solange in Jean Genet’s, The Maids.

In the end, the book didn’t work for me. Without the aid of plot or character, the themes which drove us forward needed greater development. There was the hint of transformation at the end but it came too late to serve as more than a footnote. Another reader, a more ecstatic one, might see things that I didn’t, a kind of terrible mystical beauty where I got stuck in the mundane.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for the chance to read Cursed Bread in exchange for an honest review.

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A mass poisoning of a small town in 1951.a lyrically written haunting novel of obsessions.The novel reads like a haunting dream I was immediately drawn in by the characters the interwoven story of couples lust envy.A book I will be recommending.#netgalley #doubleday

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Cursed Bread (out April 4) feels like a dream you just woke up from—you remember pieces, but they aren’t fitting together perfectly. This book is deeply internal and reflective with the weird and/or violent elements in the periphery, like having the news on the television in another room while you’re on your phone waiting for them to text you back. Fans of Sophie’s poetic writing will not be disappointed here, although she does depart a bit from her previous formatting. Hypnotic and hallucinatory, this novel feels like a secret.

For Fans of Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone and Acts of Service.

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Using the real-life mystery of the mass poisoning of a French village, Sophie Mackintosh serves us with a delicious tale of obsession in CURSED BREAD. Elodie, the wife of the town baker, grows fascinated by a couple freshly arrived to town. This is where the novel truly shines, in Elodie's compulsive behavior---I found these sections to be immensely readable, obsession being a favorite theme of mine. But the finale, which we know is coming, is what truly makes this novel stand out. It's... wild, for lack of a better word. I haven't read Mackintosh's entire oeuvre but plan to do so now! What a delight.

Thanks to the publisher for the e-galley!

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This novel is inspired by the real-life unsolved mass poisoning of a French village in 1951. In the novel, the baker's wife Elodie is an unfulfilled, ignored woman who becomes obsessed with a new prominent, wealthy couple in town, more specifically the wife. The novel is beautifully written and has a strange, hallucinatory dream quality to it, so it isn't really a straightforward explanation of what might have happened. Definitely an interesting read.

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Strange, dream-like story
Based on a true unsolved crime,
Obsession, envy

I write haiku reviews on Instagram but am happy to provide more detailed feedback, if requested!

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This one was not for me. I loved her others but this one fell off for me. It felt disjointed and not cohesive and I felt lost the whole time.

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On August 15, 1951, in the small French town of Pont-Saint-Esprit, a mass poisoning occurred that affected more than 250 people within the town and its surrounding villages. Only residents who bought bread from one specific bakery seem to have been affected; therefore, the French refer to the incident as “Le Pain Maudit”, or “The Cursed Bread.” In all, seven people died and many were committed to asylums.

The exact cause of the Pont-Saint-Esprit tragedy has never been identified. Although there were many theories, no conclusive evidence was found. Sophie Mackintosh’s new novel, “Cursed Bread” presents a compelling, fictional speculation of what could have led to this terrible day in French history. It is an amazing story!

The town baker’s wife, Elodie, a rather plain woman, feels ignored and transparent. She spends her days dreaming of what life could be if someone would but notice her—especially her husband. However, when an American ambassador and his enigmatic wife, Violet, move into town, Elodie seizes upon her chance to gain attention. Seeking every opportunity to force herself into Violet’s life, while earning the envy of her neighbors in the process, she quickly becomes obsessed. Secretly listening to private conversations, sneaking glimpses into intimate moments and stalking Violet’s every move throughout town, Elodie soon finds herself living in a fantasy world where she and Violet reverse roles. As strange events begin happening around town, and as her hold on reality slips away, Elodie finds herself in the heart of a sinister plan with no way of escape. Will this fall into darkness ultimately provide her with the transformation she has always sought?

Booker Prize nominated author Sophie Mackintosh has delivered another brilliant novel. With elements both gothic and psychedelic, the reader is drawn into a rich, dark, erotic tale that is engaging and horrifying. One of the most interesting reads of the year!

Thank you to my friends at NetGalley and Doubleday Books for allowing me to review an advanced readers copy (ARC) of this novel. Please look for “Cursed Bread” by Sophie Mackintosh in bookstores on April 4, 2023.

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