Review: 'The Seasoning' by Manon Steffan Ros (2015)
On my eightieth birthday, Jonathan gave me a notebook. Hard-backed with brown and pale yellow marbling on the cover, like chocolate in cream.
'I want you to write something for me,' said Jonathan, his dark eyes locking onto mine. 'I want you to write your story, Mam.'
Peggy's story is the story of her Snowdonia village – of a community that that shares its joys and its woes across floured kitchen tables and scrubbed shop counters.
Throughout Peggy's life food looms large – the lack of it, the sharing of it, the eating of it – from gingerbread to cawl, ce-cream to bara-brith. Her recipes are well-used and much ppreciated, but no one is quite sure where her inspiration comes from, why she is the way she is.
Not until everyone's tale is told does Peggy's story unfold... as thick, dark and sticky as treacle.
As some of you might know, I am part Welsh and quite proud of it! I used to spend all my summers in Wales with my grandparents when I was younger and over the years Wales has definitely become a special place to me. When I was contacted by Honno (Welsh Women's Press) about two years ago with the question of whether I'd be interested in reviewing some of their novels, I was incredibly excited. I reviewed 'We That Are Left' by Juliet Greenwood quite some time ago (click here to read my review), which was a great book, and last year I received a review copy of Manon Steffan Ros' 'The Seasoning.' The novel spent way too much time on my review pile, I'm sorry to say, but two weeks ago I decided it was about time to pick it up and I was really excited to finally get started in it!
'The Seasoning' is a story spread out over several decades, starting in 1937 and ending around 2010, and focusing on main character Peggy. Set in a village in Snowdonia, young girl Peggy is struggling to take care of her mother and herself. After a horrible accident, Peggy goes to live with her grandparents which is the start of some changes in her life. As a reader, we get to follow Peggy and the people close to her, watch her grow up and make changes that affect both her and the people around her.
I don't want to give away too much about the plotline of 'The Seasoning', because I truly believe it's a story you just need to read and experience for yourself. Author Megan Steffan Ros originally wrote the novel in Welsh and this is the English translation of the book. I'd love to be able to read the original, because I'm sure it's even more powerful, but Welsh is unfortunately not one of my strong points! The novel primarily focuses on main character Peggy and her life in a smal village in Snowdonia from roughly 1937 until 2010. Food plays an important role in her life and this specifically comes back in the book in the form of recipes at the start of each chapter.
Each person that somehow played an important role in Peggy's life is linked to a recipe in the book, and each recipe is the start of a new chapter told from the perspective of a different character. In that way, the story is told from various different points of view which is an approach I loved and have never come across before in a novel. Manon Steffan Ros is a talented author who really blew me away with her writing. The Welsh setting reminded me personally of all the lovely times I've had in Wales, but the story as a whole also really touched me. I want to give a special thanks to publisher Honno for sending me a review copy of this book; I'm really glad I got the chance to read it! 'The Seasoning' is a beautifully written and touching work of fiction, unlike anything else I've read before; undoubtedly worth picking up!