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Baking Cakes in Kigali (Bakery #1)

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,234 Ratings  ·  853 Reviews
Once in a great while a debut novelist comes along who dazzles us with rare eloquence and humanity, who takes us to bold new places and into previously unimaginable lives. Gaile Parkin is just such a talent—and Baking Cakes in Kigali is just such a novel. This gloriously written tale—set in modern-day Rwanda—introduces one of the most singular and engaging characters in re ...more
Hardcover, 361 pages
Published August 18th 2009 by Delacorte Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Richard Derus
May 16, 2013 Richard Derus rated it liked it
Rating: 3.125* of five

This book should have been a shoo-in for the bestseller lists. If the popularity of Alexander McCall Smith's Precious Ramotswe books is any index to American willingness to embrace African women as heroes, I can think of no earthly reason this tome won't light up the charts.

I found Angel and her husband Pius to be entertaining companions. The five grandchildren they are raising in post-genocide Rwanda reflect the realities of life in Africa...orphans everywhere, no matter w
Oct 29, 2010 Schuyler rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the latest selection for our book group at the book store where I work. I led the group this month, so obviously, I had to read the book. Well, it wasn't terrible but it was pretty bad.

This is a debut from Parkin, who grew up in South Africa and has done lots of volunteer type work, teaching, and other good stuff. But a fiction writer she is not. The story centers around Angel, the resident cake baker for this UN type compound in Kigali, Rwanda. Various characters come to her to order ca
Angel and her family have temporarily relocated from Tanzania to Rwanda. While her husband works for the local university, Angel spends her time running her successful celebratory cake business. Her customers include her lovely friends, neighbours and the odd (and I mean odd) new client who comes her way. If this book is any indication, Rwandans really love their cakes! But Angel isn't just a master baker and decorator; she is also the 'Auntie' whom everyone comes to for advice. And she dishes i ...more
This beautiful African story, set in post-genocide Rwanda, is not only compellingly and simply told - but also touches on much of what makes us truly happy in life.

Angel is a Tanzanian living in Rwanda with her husband and the five grandchildren she's raising. Her claim to fame in the town of Kigali is her extraordinary and unique cakes. The process of designing the perfect cake for her customers lets her into their lives - they share their stories. Through these stories we see in many people a
Nabse Bamato
This was one of the most irritating books I have ever read. Alexander McCall Smith is a comparable and close second, so if you like him, you'll probably like this too.

I think my problem is that I don't know who this book is aimed at. What is clear, is that whoever the intended audience is, it doesn't include me. The trick of having a Tanzanian living in Rwanda, and explaining things through her eyes (although still in the third person) could have been used to great effect. Instead, the insider-o
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I smell book series.

Yet another white person who grew up in Africa tries to cram themselves into the Africans' skin and lives, and "tell it like it is". Only of course, it can't be. Not really. The author obviously believes she has the "insider's view" and yet by her own admission, the people do keep themselves separate even while living side-by-side. All of the white people are depicted as untrustworthy, grasping, immodest, or downright thieves--oh, except for the "volunteers." They're OK. (The
Dec 05, 2010 Nicolette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites

Happiness after the tears
Rwandans are finding joy at last


BORN in Kitwe, Zambia, Gaile Parkin , 51, studied at Rhodes University and taught English at the Fort Hare campus in Alice in the 80s. Baking Cakes in Kigali is her debut novel.

Question: Where do you write?

Answer: On whatever surface there is wherever I happen to be living. Right now, it’s the kitchen counter-top in the flat I’m renting in Joburg.

Q: Best time of day to write?

Early morning –
Jul 23, 2009 Christine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
This was a book I got for free in one of the giveaways. It was an amazingly well written book. I loved the main character and it was very interesting to see how she very subtly empowered the younger women and girls around her. The story takes place in Rwanda in the city of Kigali. Angel is an excellent baker of cakes and through her client's stories the author discusses the genocide in Rwanda, the AIDS epidemic in Africa, female genital mutilation and many more very serious topics in a way that ...more
Oct 27, 2011 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I started out not liking this book. I thought the author had a checklist of issues she wanted to cover and was stuffing them into this short novel. But as I read I came to love this book. Her message is hope, its done simply and with grace. She delivers it through a woman named Angel who bakes cakes. People come to Angel with their need for a cake and reasons to celebrate. This is a book about survivors whether it is from the horrific genocide that devastated Rwanda in the mid 90s or AIDS. Its a ...more
This book was a face to face book club pick...I live in Africa and so we usually pick Africa themed books...this was a special book. The main character Angel very slightly reminded me of Precious Ramotswe, but this book dealt with a lot heavier things.

Angel is a Tanzanian living in Kigali, in a Rwanda on it's way out of the aftermath of the genocide this is swirling around in the background as she goes about her life, she's a baker how bakes cakes for the community (something I do too so loved t
Jul 23, 2011 Rachelfm rated it really liked it
I thought that this book was an accessible, sensitive treatment of modern life in Africa. The story of a Tanzanian family touched by tragedy who relocates to Rwanda manages to address a whole host of present-day issues: HIV/AIDS, FGM, foreign aid, reconciliation, religious, cultural, and economic differences, empowerment of women, effects of colonialism, etc. etc. The constant are the cakes created by the innovative and wise protagonist, Angel, and the way her role in the community draws out the ...more
Jul 22, 2012 Autumn rated it it was ok
This book is a loosely woven amalgam of anecdotes about the lives of a group of people who come into the life of the protagonist, Angel. She happens to be the premier cake maker in Kiagali, a city in Rwanda; she is also somewhat of a sounding board and mother hen to all she encounters.

This book started out as a three-star kind of book for me. Although it is fairly light in tone, the protagonist is appealing--what grandmother of five who takes in her grandchildren after her own children die would
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
I ostensibly got this book for a reading challenge, but I would have wanted to read it anyway - who could resist a gorgeous cover like that?! What's even better is that I absolutely loved this book, and it's going straight to my Favourites list.

Angel Tungaraza is a native of Tanzania who moved to Rwanda with her husband, Pius, when he got a contract to work at KIST (the Kigali Institute of Science & Technology), helping get the country back on its feet after the genocide. It's the year 2000
My first impression of this book was that the writing was quite simple. As I read further, realized that it was deceptively simple. It was written in the voice of the protagonist, Angel.

The setting of the book is a compound of international people living in Kigali, helping it rebuild after the 1994 genocide. Angel (appropriately named) bakes and decorates cakes for her friends and customers. Throughout the book, their individual stories are revealed.

I noticed early on that many of the members o
Maya Panika
Jun 30, 2009 Maya Panika rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
So Gaile Parkin has lived in Africa, she knows it really well! OK, I get that, I really do, I couldn’t escape it after having had it hammered at me for page after page after dreadful-dreary page.

I’ve never lived in Africa but I’d imagine real Africans don’t keep a running dialogue of the many details of their daily lives both in their own heads and with everyone they meet. Real people don’t make mental notes about the bins and the shops and the dusty streets or the way people regard a cake or t
Aug 17, 2009 Aarti rated it liked it
I don't quite know what to make of this book. It has a really beautiful theme of celebrating small victories after surviving horrible situations. It also does a brilliant job of describing the AIDS crisis in Africa in a very moving way. The author, Gaile Parkin, does not throw statistics in your face. Rather, she quietly describes how people in Africa- everyone in Africa- is affected by AIDS, even in just the tiniest of ways. Almost every character in the book has a family member with AIDS, and ...more
Debbie Moffett
Aug 16, 2009 Debbie Moffett rated it really liked it
I loved the way the author wove together the issues of the African people, the stories behind the cakes she baked, and energy she put into helping the people around her feel hopeful and whole, despite the sadness she had experienced. When Angel cleaned her glasses or made tea, you knew to expect a thoughtful conversation between the characters. I could visualize the characters and the cakes and feel the comfort she offered her guests when she served them. Having been to Kenya on a mission trip, ...more
I'm so glad I won this through Library Thing's member share, because I might not have known about it otherwise.

This is a truly terrific and unusual book. The author uses a narrative structure of a woman taking orders for cakes as a device to tell real stories about the people of Rwanda post-genocide. The writing is superb. The stories are sometimes inspirational, sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes terrifying and sometimes hilarious, but always a page-turner. I would recommend this book to anyo
Kathe Dimeo Coleman
Jul 21, 2015 Kathe Dimeo Coleman rated it really liked it
The story is set in 2010 six years after Rwanda’s one hundred days of the genocide where there was a mass slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu by the Hutu majority. During the approximate 100-day period in 1974, an estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Rwandans were killed. Angel and Pius have just moved to Rwanda so Pius can take a higher paying job at the Institute. Both of Angel’s children tragically died and the grandchildren, all five of them, came to live with Angel and Pius. Angel is a cake baker e ...more
Aug 26, 2013 Jeanette rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
A lovely reminded me of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series but with deeper meaning (healing from the Rwandan Genocide, etc.) And she baked cakes throughout which makes me want more Main Street Bakery cupcakes! Who's with me?!
Natasha Govender
Jan 08, 2016 Natasha Govender rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
I love books in which the protagonists are chefs or bakers... or candlestick makers :) But this is not the reason I picked up Baking Cakes in Kigali. A friend recently traveled to Rwanda for work and was kind enough to bring back a beautifully decorated bowl for me - a stunning piece of Rwandan pottery. And some gorgeous Rwandan coffee, as well. Before he left, we were all a little nervous about him going to this country. All we'd ever seen were images of the war. Killing, death, destruction. It ...more
Mar 02, 2010 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like the work of Alexander McCall Smith with his books about Precious Ramotswe you'll enjoy this book thoroughly. Angel is a grandmother raising 5 grandchildren with her husband Pius, in Kigali, Rwanda's capital city. They are both native Tanzanians who are there because of Pius' work commitments. Angel bakes cakes for celebrations to augment their income, and with each cake, a little piece of Angel's friends and neighbours stories gets told. The book touches lightly on a few issues such ...more
Aug 27, 2009 Denise rated it really liked it
Baking Cakes in Kigali is the heartwarming tale of Angel Tungaraza, a professional cake baker living in Rwanda. She creates beautiful and creative cakes; an airplane for a young girl's birthday, a prison with bent bars for a divorce party, and a ying/yang cake to create balance.

Each cake comes with a story - families reunited after the genocide in Rwanda, young women learning to be entrepreneurs, love affairs, and divorces. At the center of it all is Angel dispensing advice, cupcakes, and sweet
Oct 10, 2013 Krista rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013, africa
Set in post-Genocide Rwanda, Baking Cakes in Kigali focuses on Angel Tungaraza, the wife of a visiting professor at the Kingali Institute of Science and Technology. The Tungarazas are from neighbouring Tanzania and have taken the foreign posting in order to afford the care of the five grandchildren they took in when the youngters' parents died (view spoiler) ...more
Kelly Hager
May 09, 2010 Kelly Hager rated it really liked it
This reminds me a lot of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency, only the main character bakes cakes (obviously, hence the title) instead of solving mysteries.

Angel Tungaraza is a businesswoman in Rwanda (she makes and sells these incredible-sounding cakes), but she's also a major part of the community where she lives. Each chapter is about a cake that she's making (for a wedding, a birthday, a party,etc.).

The back of the book is covered with all these grandiose claims ("Once in a great while a debut no
Jul 28, 2011 Valerie rated it liked it
This was the 2nd book that my book club was reading and it was my pick.

All in all, I think this was a good book. Mama-Grace (Angel) is a cake maker from Tanzania who moved with her husband and her 5 grandchildren (she is now raising them) to Rwanda. Each chapter of this book is an occasion (ie., birthday, an engagement, a confirmation, an escape, etc.) where someone new from Rwanda comes into Mama-Grace's kitchen to order a cake.

Parkin does a great job describing life in Rwanda. With each enco
Pmalcpoet Pat Malcolm
Jul 13, 2011 Pmalcpoet Pat Malcolm rated it it was amazing
It's amazing how influential the protagonist's personality and worldview are on the reader's experience of the book. A book that deals with the danger, violence, and heartbreak of Rwanda's--and Africa's--history of the past couple of decades could be so many things, but when the protagonist is a wise, happy woman who loves people and is flexible enough to interact with them gracefully no matter what their stories, the reader comes away with a positive feeling, a feeling of hope and a new respect ...more
Okay, so I know I'm fairly alone in my hatred of all things feel-good, so I feel somewhat bad criticizing this book when there was already so little chance it could win with me. But regardless of that, I thought it was trying way too hard to be charming and meaningful. There's no real plot to this book - it's just little vignettes that are strung together as the main character, Angel, encounters people through her cake business. Angel herself doesn't do much, other than listen to people and give ...more
Angel Tungaraza and her husband Pius live in modern day Rwanda where they are raising their five grandchildren. Pius teaches at the university in Kigali, and Angel runs a business out of their home baking cakes for all kinds of occasions.

Angel is more than a baker, she is an artist, and feels that her cakes must be individualized to the person they are for, to represent not just special occasions, but the personalities and dreams of their honorees.

To accomplish this, Angel becomes a confidante
Another GoodReads First Reads review.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It didn't have a real continuous plot, it was more like many short stories connected only by repeating characters. As such, this is no page turner. In fact it was so easy to leave the book at every break that it took me a ridiculous amount of time to finish. I frequently had to spend time trying to recall who people were, which never happens to me. Certainly, the amount of time it took to finish the book didn't help that
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Born and raised in Zambia, Gaile Parkin has lived and worked in many African countries. Her first job was in a Soweto still simmering from the violent uprising of the school students who had begun to loosen apartheid's control of the education system in South Africa. More recently she has worked in Rwanda, counselling women and girls who had survived the genocide. A published author of numerous sc ...more
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