Still reeling in the aftermath of the deadliest war the world had ever seen, the small town of Pont-Saint-Esprit collectively lost its mind. Some historians believe the mysterious illness and violent hallucinations were caused by spoiled bread; others claim it was the result of covert government testing on the local population. In that town lived a woman named Elodie. She was the baker's wife: a plain, unremarkable person who yearned to transcend her dull existence. So when a charismatic new couple arrived in town, the forceful ambassador and his sharp-toothed wife, Violet, Elodie was quickly drawn into their orbit. Thus began a dangerous game of cat and mouse—but who was the predator and on whom did they prey?
Slipping into Sophie Mackintosh’s fiction is as comforting as it is disquieting. The tender consideration lavished on her characters, especially the women and girls her novels revolve around, is immediately tangible, and yet their worlds, glimpsed as through a gauzy, fractured filter, quiver with unease ... At times, it all feels like an exhilaratingly wicked game, though the devastating potential for Elodie and the town is clear from start, accentuated throughout by insinuations of violence, even in casual observation ... Destruction is a distinct possibility for the novel’s readers as well, but it’s a real comfort to feel that no matter how much pain Elodie’s vulnerability may cause her, Mackintosh cares for her as much as we do.
A quietly rich maturation of Mackintosh’s skill, set in a semi-rural postwar French town ... This is a book about the power desire and greed exert over reality and memory ... Cursed Bread presents a subtler rendering of how enough desperation behind the words 'I want' can make one ill, and is all the more gripping for it ... Mackintosh has entered a brilliant new stage of writing.
Disconcerting, dreamlike ... Described with linguistic precision and cinematic patience ... A clever investigation into narrative form: how it shapes and propels a story, and its vulnerability in the hands of the person who tells it.