A few years ago, I wanted a novel set in Central Africa that was not set in Congo Brazzaville. I could not find anything I liked set in DRC, so I looked for one set in Rwanda and Baking Cakes in Kigali was the top of the very few available picks. Baking Cakes in Kigali has a simple premise; Angel Tungaraza is an expat’s wife, a Tanzanian housewife living with her husband and 4 grandchildren in a multitenant complex in Kigali. She expands her cake-baking hobby into a business from this apartment. Customers from all parts of Kigali and across all social classes knock on her door to order a cake and their personal circumstances envelope the need for a cake. The plot of the book revolves around her interactions with her customers. The plot is basic but it is infused with a lot of social commentary that makes it a worthwhile read.

The plot device of Baking Cakes in Kigali is incredibly formulaic and simplistic; a person needs a cake, they knock on Angel’s door, and she goes to brew a pot of tea while they look through the cake photo album to choose a design of that fits their taste and need, while discussing the occasion they divulge private stories that ties to a social burning topic and soon after they pay a deposit for the cake, Angel puts the cash into her brassiere. While the sanitary implication of stuffing money notes into her underwear is one thing, the number of times it is repeated in the book makes it a bit boring. That aside, Angel’s charming humour and her candid interactions with her customers make for a pleasurable read. It can be argued that while weighty issues are touched upon in the book, none of them is developed extensively enough to make Baking Cakes in Kigali thought-provoking enough. However, the counterargument could be that Baking Cakes in Kigali was not structured to be a deep story but one which with gentle humour and a lightness of touch in its prose, varied serious topics are touched upon. Topics like women empowerment, forgiveness, foreign aid, menopause, email genital mutilation and reconciliation make enough of an appearance in Baking Cakes in Kigali an easy read that provides some thoughtful moments.Baking Cakes in Kigali 1Baking Cakes in Kigali 3


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