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Half a world away from her home in Manitoulin Island, Ethel Mulvany is starving in Singapore’s infamous Changi Prison, along with hundreds of other women jailed there as POWs during the Second World War. They beat back pangs of hunger by playing decadent games of make-believe and writing down recipes filled with cream, raisins, chocolate, butter, cinnamon, ripe fruit—the unattainable ingredients of peacetime, of home, of memory.
In this novelistic, immersive biography, Suzanne Evans presents a truly individual account of WWII through the eyes of Ethel—mercurial, enterprising, combative, stubborn, and wholly herself. The Taste of Longing follows Ethel through the fall of Singapore in 1942, the years of her internment, and beyond. As a prisoner, she devours dog biscuits and book spines, befriends spiders and smugglers, and endures torture and solitary confinement. As a free woman back in Canada, she fights to build a life for herself in the midst of trauma and burgeoning mental illness.
Woven with vintage recipes and transcribed tape recordings, the story of Ethel and her fantastical POW Cookbook is a testament to the often-overlooked strength of women in wartime. It’s a story of the unbreakable power of imagination, generosity, and pure heart.