Book Review: Black Cake

Last night was Book Club night. I had an enjoyable evening with The Ridge Readers discussing our April book read. I was too busy chatting and joining in the debate so I forgot to take any notes. So instead here’s my thoughts and a book review of Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson.

Where Are We Touring To?

Black Cake is based in the Caribbean Islands. But the story also take us to California USA and briefly to the UK. So we’re on quite a journey as we follow this historical fiction tale. Before I share my book review of Black Cake, here’s the background to the story.

Book Cover Notes

Eleanor Bennett won’t let her own death get in the way of the truth. So when her estranged children – Byron and Benny – reunite for her funeral in California, they discover a puzzling inheritance.

First, a voice recording in which everything Byron and Benny ever knew about their family is upended. Their mother narrates a tumultuous story about a headstrong young woman who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder, a story which cuts right to the heart of the rift that’s separated Byron and Benny.

Second, a traditional Caribbean black cake made from a family recipe that Eleanor hopes will heal the wounds of the past.

Can Byron and Benny fulfil their mother’s final request to ‘share the black cake when the time is right’?
Or will Eleanor’s revelations leave them feeling more lost than ever?

Book Review Black Cake - Banner

My Thoughts

Is it just me or has there been an amazing wave of debut novels published this year? And here’s another one. Debut author Charmaine Wilkerson transports us across the globe and the decades in this gripping historical fiction.

The story begins in the 1960s with the turbulent life of teenager Covey. Losing her mother as a child and living with a father who has a gambling problem, Covey spends her spare time with best friend Bunny. Set in the Caribbean Islands, the teenagers share a love of swimming and an obsession with the sea. At every opportunity they are in the water, swimming long distances, pushing themselves to see how far they can go.

The book is written using a dual timeline. We follow Covey’s life and those of her family and friends over several decades. Besides Covey, the narrative is told from the view point of several of the main characters including her children Byron and Benny. As they listen to a recording from their mother they discover family secrets and betrayals that hurt them to the core. They begin to doubt their own actions and decisions growing up, replaying events in their lives that had such an impact on who they are now. If only they’d known more about their parents, understood what they were being protected from, would they have acted differently.

One of my book club members admitted that she struggled to follow the story at times because she didn’t read the chapter titles. So she didn’t realise the story had changed timeline and who was narrating the story. As long as you read the chapter titles it’s very easy to follow and actually I quite liked reading from the different view points.

I would have liked Covey’s mother to have been in the story more. I was rather disappointed with how her character played out. There could have been more written about her story I felt. Well, unless the author has cleverly planned a book series and we get to read her story in book 2 🙂

This is an interesting book about identity. It makes you think about your own family and traditions. In this story the Black Cake was a family tradition. A recipe handed down through the family with each generation lovingly making the cake for family occasions. I love the idea of having a family signature dish, one that easily identifies the country you or your ancestors originate from. My roots are Polish and French, I wonder what my European family recipe would be?


This is a fascinating tale about growing up in a multi-cultural family. It’s about murder, love, loss and friendships that lasts a lifetime. Full of well-kept secrets and surprising twists. And the one thing that binds it all together is Black Cake.

Where To Buy The Book

Amazon | Waterstones

Further book info

  • Publication date: 3 February 2022
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • Page count: 376

About The Author

Book Review Black Cake

Charmaine Wilkerson is from New York, has lived in Jamaica and does much of her writing in Italy. A graduate of Barnard College and Stanford University.

Black Cake is the author’s debut novel and is a New York Times bestseller. A screen series based on the novel is currently under development. Charmaine is a former US news and communication professional whose award-winning short fiction has appeared in various anthologies and magazines.

Where To Find Charmaine Online

Website | Twitter | Instagram

Finally, I hope you’ve enjoyed my book review of Black Cake. Next book club night I shall try and remember to capture some of the comments from my lovely group. In the meantime, happy reading.

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