"Blessed are the Cheesemakers"
(Reviewed by Shannon Bloomstran JUN 29, 2003)If I were stranded on a desert island, the food I would miss most is cheese. I love cheese, all types of cheese, Maytag Blue, Fromager d'Affinois, Petit Basque, Taleggio. My affinity knows no national or state boundaries. I've passed this love onto my two-year-old who's been known to sniff disdainfully, "No want deli cheese, want cheese cheese," whereupon she'll tuck happily into a wedge of St. Agur, a nice snack at $20/pound. Until recently, I thought I liked cheese more than anyone on the planet. That is, until I read Blessed Are the Cheesemakers, a new novel by New Zealander Sarah-Kate Lynch. It is filled with people who eat, sleep, and breathe cheese and that's not speaking metaphorically.
Blessed Are the Cheesemakers is a warm and sweet romantic novel set in County Cork Ireland in Coolarney House, where some of the world's foremost farmhouse cheese is produced. It has been owned and operated for generations by two families, the Corrigans, who supply the cows for the milk and the Feehans, who supply the cheesemaking ability. The last two denizens of these families, both named Joseph, are getting up there in years and need someone, preferably family to take over the operations of the farmhouse. Their cheeses are known throughout the world, a fact that they chalk up to their consummate cheesemaking ability and good pastures for the cows. They also use a special "breed" of milkmaid. They only hire young women who all happen to be pregnant and vegetarians and no joke, are able to sing songs from "The Sound of Music" for hours on end. Personally I think anyone who can make it through "The Lonely Goatherd" more than once in a lifetime is candidate for sainthood, let alone doing it surrounded by a herd of cows.
Lynch has peopled her novel with a slew of eccentric characters, charming, but more than a little overdrawn. The cheesemakers, known as Corrie and Fee, have to find someone to take over the business and pin their hopes on Corrie's granddaughter, Abbey. Never mind the fact that she lives on a South Pacific island with her megalomaniac adulterous husband, and that she hasn't spoken to her grandfather in over 20 years, they believe she will come. You almost expect Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones to start playing baseball in the mists of County Cork. At the other side of the universe sits Kit Stephens, a recently widowed New York investment banker. Despondent over his wife's death, Kit drowns his sorrows in barrels of Grey Goose vodka and is summarily fired from his tony Wall Street firm. Luckily, Kit's plucky Irish secretary knows just the place for him to dry out and reconnoiter, a certain farm where they make a certain type of cheese.
Fee, whose abilities not only lie in making cheese but also in wise prognostication, decides that Kit and Abbey will be the ones to carry on the cheesemaking tradition, a fact that most readers will figure out by about page 20. Nevertheless, it's not an easy road for the twosome and Fee has to haul out his sweet smelling, horrid tasting "love cheese" to bewitch the two soon-to-be-besotted. Births, a death, and the opening up of family secrets are all bumps on the road to true love.
The story is predictable but sweet, and even a little spicy in some spots. Lynch has a warm spot for her characters, right down to the three farm cats who are named "Jesus," "Mary," and "All The Saints." It's really the characters' story, the cheese as much as the people. As Fee says, when asked about a man's state of mind, "In my experience there's not a state in the world that cannot be greatly improved by close proximity to cheese." Amen and pass the Brie.
- Amazon readers rating: from 31 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Blessed are the Cheesemakers
(back to top)
Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Finding Tom Connor (2001)
- Blessed Are the Cheesemakers (2002; July 2003 in US)
- By Bread Alone (October 2004)
- Eating with Angels (2005)
- House of Daughters (2008)
- Dolci di Love (March 2011)
- Stuff It! (1997)
- The Modern Girl's Guide to Life (2002)
(back to top)
- New Zealand Book Council page on Sarah-Kate Lynch
- Guardian Unlimited review of Blessed are the Cheesemakers
(back to top)
About the Author:
Sara-Kate Lynch has been a journalist for nearly 20 years working for radio stations and magazines in New Zealand, Sydney and London. Before she quit to write fiction she was the editor for New Zealand Woman's Weekly magazine and wrote a popular column which she published selected columns from in her book The Modern Girl's Guide to Life.
She lives in Queenstown which is a small lakeside town in the mountains of New Zealand's South Island.