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Baking Cakes in Kigali

(Bakery #1)

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  5,951 ratings  ·  1,081 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, 308 pages
Published August 18th 2009 by Delacorte Press
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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 ·  5,951 ratings  ·  1,081 reviews

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Richard Derus
Dec 19, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Oct 29, 2010 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
Corinne Edwards
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
Book Concierge
Angel Tungaraza is living with her husband and grandchildren in a compound in Kigali, Rwanda, where she has a cake-making business she operates out of the family’s apartment kitchen. Angel is frequently privy to her customer’s secrets, and as a “professional somebody,” she knows that she must keep these confidences. But there’s nothing to say that she cannot act to try to help her customers as they negotiate the pitfalls of life, and celebrate the joys of living.

This is a delightful debut novel
Oct 22, 2011 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
Dec 05, 2010 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 –
Feb 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
A solid 4 star read for me. I loved reading about the African country through the eyes of a wonderfully sweet woman named Angel. I learned about a nation I know little about and it sourced an interest for me to read more stories from that region.
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, an
Jul 22, 2012 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
Jul 23, 2009 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
Aug 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the momliest mom book in the momiverse and would make a great Mothers' Day present. It's also a pan-African novel, an expat novel, an ensemble novel, heartwarming, and occasionally snort-laughing hilarious, like when the American neighbor from upstairs comes to visits Angel and makes her confession about her husband, the man the whole neighborhood is calling "The CIA." Angel Tungaraza and her husband are Tanzanian grandparents living in Rwanda because Angel's husband gets hazard pay work ...more
Jul 23, 2011 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
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
Dale Dixon
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How could anyone not enjoy this book? The cover is just beautiful and colourful and it made me feel so happy just looking at it. The real strength of this book however is in the stories that are told. Set in the years just after the Rwandan Genocide and with the common theme of cakes, stories of love, hope, unlikely friendships and survival emerge between an unlikely set of people. The characters are warm and honest and the stories are sometimes challenging, but always heartwarming. They're chal ...more
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I just loved this book.. Angel is such a mother hen and so passionate about her cakes. All the characters felt like family. So well written.
Oct 06, 2013 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
Mar 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very similar to the 'No 1 Ladies Detective Agency' in style and involvement. In that it revolves around a central character who solves problems as much as runs a business, in this case baking cakes, but also looks into the wider world around her as much as you the reader are prepared to go. All the characters are there just like anywhere else in the world, so the problems faced are universal but with an African twist but then there are the African problems which you, as a reader, can explore as ...more
Aug 17, 2009 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
Angel Tungaraza and her husband Pious are raising their grandchildren because their son and daughter are both "late". They live in an apartment compound with an international cast of characters. Angel makes ends meet by baking cakes for special occasions and parties. She is a good listener and an excellent confidant because she is a "very professional businesswoman". We learn about the lives and struggles of Angels friends, neighbors and customers in the post-revolutionary Rwanda.
Maya Panika
May 22, 2009 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
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 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
Farah Aden
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This may seem like the perfect, happy summer read about a Tanzanian woman who bakes cakes in Rwanda however it has very dark undertones on the topics of grief, denial, suicide, AIDS, genocide, FGM, unity and reconciliation, truth, sex work, wealth & poverty, Western corruption, religion, cultural acceptance and resilience.
For me, this book was particularly healing as I have recently worked and lived in an African capital and this book is set in an international environment in a capital city in A
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was hooked after reading the rich metaphor in the first sentence, which I re-read and savored several times. I loved the beautifully drawn main character, Angel. Her humanity, wit, wisdom and introspective musings bring her to life on every page. The story is set in post-genocide Rwanda, where Angel is a clever and entrepreneurial baker of cakes. We are given a vivid and endearing picture of a small tight knit community, and the interactions of a colorful cast of characters that includes ex-pa ...more
Generally I'm not interested in feel-good books with homespun wisdom, but I gave this one a pass because it was set in Rwanda and helped concretize that country's troubled past for me. The characters' stories read like a list of Africa's woes - genocide, broken families, trauma, hunger, AIDS, malaria, rape, female mutilation - and I would not have gotten through them all without the author's light touch and hopeful presentation. In the end it was an oddly uplifting book. ...more
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A heart-warming story of friendship, community, and reconciliation.
A charming Tanzanian baker offers a friendly ear and warm advice to an assortment of friends and customers in her Rwandan neighbourhood. Colorful descriptions of her creative cake designs contrast the heart-breaking stories of individuals affected by civil genocide.
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Around Africa fro...: Rwanda 2 3 May 27, 2020 09:19AM  
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Play Book Tag: Baking Cakes in Kigali / Gaile Parkin - 4**** 2 15 Apr 26, 2017 03:28AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin 2 11 Mar 05, 2015 03:29PM  

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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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Bakery (3 books)
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