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The Chocolate Factory by Mary-Lou Stephens
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The Chocolate Factory (edition 2024)

by Mary-Lou Stephens (Author)

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It's 1921, and after years of working for Cadbury's at Bournville, Dorothy Adwell is on her way to a new adventure in the colonies, helping to establish the Firm's new Australian factory. A promotion and a fresh start are just what she needs after the horrors of the Great War and the loss of her beloved husband.… (more)
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Title:The Chocolate Factory
Authors:Mary-Lou Stephens (Author)
Info:HQ Fiction (2024), 441 pages
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The Chocolate Factory by Mary-Lou Stephens

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The Chocolate Factory is a fantastic story of the establishment of Cadbury’s (and Fry’s Chocolate, and Pascall’s lollies) first factory outside the UK near Hobart, Tasmania. While it is fictional, it does contain a lot of detail about the establishment of the factory and how chocolate is made. The last section is particularly thrilling as chocolate spies (yes, they were a thing – the recipe for Dairy Milk chocolate was a hotly guarded secret) take over the narrative.

The story starts as widow Dorothy is en route from Bournville, the original home of Cadbury to the new factory in Tasmania. Dorothy credits Cadbury for giving her a chance to make something of her life, as well as giving her opportunities during the war and to leave bad memories behind. Initially the focus is on the setting up of the factory, getting to know the other women workers and recruiting locals. (Not all the women knew each other as some came from Fry’s and Pascall’s factories). Dorothy is also keen to help Thomas, a man she met on the voyage, to recover from shell shock as she couldn’t help her own husband. Some of the narrative is then told from Maisie’s point of view, one of the new workers who comes from a poor family and is eager to earn money so that her sister doesn’t have to leave school. The story then goes through the opening of the factory and the various jobs, but things take a subtly sinister turn as Dorothy receives anonymous notes detailing various slip-ups and that she has something of ‘great worth’. Maisie is tempted by the promise of more should she assist others with their own research. As the chocolate spies become closer, the story speeds up a lot from its original gentle pace with some sudden, unexpected twists.

I enjoyed The Chocolate Factory. I did find the first couple of chapters overly flowery, with everything described just that bit too much for me. As the story went on, it didn’t seem to jar me so much (or it just toned down). Some of the characters, such as Dorothy and Maisie are well fleshed out. I felt that Dorothy’s friend Sarah wasn’t as well detailed until towards the end, where some of her secrets are spilled. Esme, Dorothy’s sort of nemesis, doesn’t have her motivations spelled out all that well and she becomes more of a caricature and laughing stock that a threat later on. I did appreciate the amount of research done on the establishment of the factory and the various roles of the workers. I’ve visited the (now closed) New Zealand Cadbury factory multiple times and it struck me how hands on the work was then – let alone back in the 1920s! I feel that Stephens explained well the thoughts and motivations of the Cadbury family in their ‘factory within a park’ and opportunities for improvement for their workers. I wonder what they would think of the current owners, Mondelez International?

I would recommend this book to those with a keen interest in the history of the Cadbury factory in Tasmania who enjoy an interesting story.

Thank you to Harlequin for the copy of the book. My review is honest.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com ( )
  birdsam0610 | Jan 27, 2024 |
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It's 1921, and after years of working for Cadbury's at Bournville, Dorothy Adwell is on her way to a new adventure in the colonies, helping to establish the Firm's new Australian factory. A promotion and a fresh start are just what she needs after the horrors of the Great War and the loss of her beloved husband.

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Mary-Lou Stephens is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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