Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Freebie: True Confections and The Music Lesson by Katharine Weber

Congratulations to Michael Cooper, winner of last week's Friday Freebie: Shambles and On the Outskirts of Normal by Debra Monroe.

This week, I have another two-fer deal for you: The Music Lesson and True Confections by Katharine Weber.  She's generously donated--and signed!--paperback copies of these novels to one lucky winner and it's as sweet a deal as the candy factory at the heart of True Confections.  Weber's new book, The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities, will be released next Tuesday and this would be a good chance to catch up on her novels (she's also published Triangle, The Little Women, and Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear) before reading her memoir which focuses on her "powerful, talented, but troubled family" (Publishers Weekly).

Lies, half-truths and unreliable narrators are at the heart of nearly everything Weber writes and nowhere is that more evident than the two novels up for grabs this week.  Briefly, here are the publisher's blurbs for The Music Lesson (1998) and True Confections (2010).  [For what it's worth, I've always loved the title of the latter book for its play on the tabloid magazine True Confessions; as readers quickly find out, the truth is a highly subjective thing when filtered through the novel's narrator, Alice Ziplinsky.]

"She's beautiful," writes Irish-American art historian Patricia Dolan in the first of the journal entries that form The Music Lesson. "I look at my face in the mirror and it seems far away, less real than hers."  The woman she describes is the subject of the stolen Vermeer of the novel's title. Patricia is alone with this exquisite painting in a remote Irish cottage by the sea. How she arrived in such an unlikely circumstance is one part of the story Patricia tells us: about her father, a policeman who raised her to believe deeply in the cause of a united Ireland; the art history career that has sustained her since the numbing loss of her daughter; and the arrival of Mickey O'Driscoll, her dangerously charming, young Irish cousin, which has led to her involvement in this high-stakes crime. Her vigil becomes a tale of love, regret, and transformation. As Patricia immerses herself in the passions of her Irish heritage, she discovers what has been hidden beneath the surface of her own life--and what she must do to preserve the things she values most.

Take chocolate candy, add a family business at war with itself, and stir with an outsider’s perspective. This is the recipe for True Confections, the irresistible novel by Katharine Weber. Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky’s marriage into the Ziplinsky family has not been unanimously celebrated. Her greatest ambition is to belong, to feel truly entitled to the heritage she has tried so hard to earn. Which is why Zip’s Candies is much more to her than just a candy factory, where she has worked for most of her life. In True Confections, Alice has her reasons for telling the multigenerational saga of the family-owned-and-operated candy company, now in crisis. Nobody is more devoted than Alice to delving into the truth of Zip’s history, starting with the rags-to-riches story of how Hungarian immigrant Eli Czaplinsky developed his famous candy lines, and how each of his candies, from Little Sammies to Mumbo Jumbos, was inspired by an element in a stolen library copy of Little Black Sambo, from which he taught himself English. Within Alice’s vivid and persuasive account (is her unreliability a tactic or a condition?) are the stories of a runaway slave from the cacao plantations of Côte d’Ivoire and the Third Reich’s failed plan to establish a colony on Madagascar for European Jews. Richly informed, deeply moving, and spiked with Weber’s trademark wit, True Confections is, at its heart, a timeless and universal story of love, betrayal, and chocolate.

If you would like a chance to win The Music Lesson and True Confections (both of which have been autographed by the author on the title page), all you have to is answer this question:

Which relative of Weber's produced the first movie with smells, the regrettable flop that was Aromarama?  (Visit Weber's website to find the answer)

Email your answer to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.   One entry per person, please.   Please e-mail me the answer, rather than posting it in the comments section.   Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on July 21--at which time I'll draw the winning name. I'll announce the lucky reader on July 22.

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