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Baking Cakes in Kigali (Bakery #1)

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  4,561 Ratings  ·  899 Reviews
Introduces the irresistible Angel Tungaraza, a fairy godmother who seemingly works miracles for her friends and neighbours; but she is also irresistibly manipulative, if always of course for the best. This title tells how Angel is entirely aware that many of the Rwandans around her have witnessed and survived horrors she can barely imagine.
Hardcover, 361 pages
Published 2009 by Atlantic Books
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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
Richard Derus
Rating: 3.5* of five

2016 Comment: I can't figure people out...this book is a pleasure to read, offers revealing and touching and amusing comments on the reality of growing older in an era of chaotic change that I can't imagine NOT being of interest to a very wide readership and yet..nothing! It's a lovely story. Seek one out, give it a try, this is good stuff here.

The Publisher Says: Once in a great while a debut novelist comes along who dazzles us with rare eloquence and humanity, who takes us
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
Dec 05, 2010 Nicolette rated it really liked it
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 –
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
Oct 22, 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, 2009 Christine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 17, 2009 Aarti rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 22, 2009 Maya Panika rated it did not like it
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
Jul 01, 2009 Paula rated it it was amazing
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
Debbie Moffett
Aug 16, 2009 Debbie Moffett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Irene Mcintyre
Can I just say I really loved this book!? Great characters, funny, sweet taste in my mouth after reading this and no it is no Mma Ramotswe but in the in-between it will definitely do.
Oct 06, 2013 Krista rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 26, 2017 Muikku rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nzuri sana, asante sana Gaile Parkin!
Oct 10, 2016 Alycia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely trying to ride on the coattails of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.
I learned more about Rwanda, which is always a plus but overall the book was just okay. Definitely has a "aren't Africans clever?!?!" feel to it and seeing that the author is an Anglo African, that was painful.
There should have been at least one cake recipe.
I will read the sequel for sure but not expect much.
Sep 14, 2011 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the first few pages of this book, I thought it was an homage to Precious Ramotswe and the No. 1 Detective Ladies' Agency series. That was not so bad; I love those books, am charmed by their simplicity and tenderness. But Parkin has something else in mind. This is a story about Rwanda after the genocide, and though it centers on a baker of cakes, a humble woman performing a humble job, interacting with her neighbors, making new friends, uncovering is a simple, tender story set in ...more
Jul 08, 2009 Lindsay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lindsay by: Goodreads First Reads
I was once a devoted follower of "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series. I enjoyed the lighthearted mystery and the chance to catch a glimpse of a different culture through the eyes of endearing characters, but I have not picked up the last two books because I have found them a bit repetitive and formulaic. "Baking Cakes in Kigali" in some ways felt like the beloved McCall Smith series, but with fresh faces and deeper stories. Angel Tungararza, a cake maker from Tanzania, moves with her husb ...more
Pmalcpoet Pat Malcolm
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
Natasha Govender
Feb 12, 2013 Natasha Govender rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nov 21, 2009 Spuddie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a story about Angel, a menopausal woman living in Kigali, Rwanda with her husband and five grandchildren. Both of her children have died in her native Tanzania, and she and her husband move to Kigali when he is offered a consultancy with the university there. Angel bakes cakes, and while she runs her business out of her apartment, she considers herself "a professional somebody."

The story encompasses life in and around an apartment compound, featuring a variety of people from all over th
Feb 25, 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
Jul 24, 2009 Maura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Angel Tungaraza is a woman of a certain age, going through "the Change" as she puts it, caring for her orphaned grandchildren, and running a successful business as a baker of custom cakes. Through her customers we are introduced to a number of other characters, from neighbors to her husband's co-workers, to the many people from all around the world who are helping restore Rwanda post-genocide. We learn their stories as they are told to Angel; some are heart-breaking tales of surviving the genoci ...more
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2015 Reading Chal...: Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin 2 11 Mar 05, 2015 03:29PM  
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Around the World: Baking Cakes in Kigali 10 29 Jan 10, 2012 08:14AM  
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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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