Monday, 20 February 2012

Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury

Five stars
 I finished Chocolate Wars this weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's most assuredly the best book I've read so far in 2012. Deborah Cadbury is a relative of the Cadbury chocolate-making family, although as far as I could discern, her branch was not involved in the Cadbury factories in Birmingham. She does fondly recall the Xmas packages of chocolates that arrived every year. At any rate, she has researched this book diligently and written a fascinating history of the development of the chocolate industry and the families and individuals that brought it to the forefront and turned it into the global industry it is today.

While focused on the English Quaker families that developed the British chocolate industry; the Cadburys, the Fry's and the Rowntrees, Deborah also delves into the other chocolate giants; Nestlé, Hershey and Mars, amongst others.

The book is more than just a story about chocolate, which is fascinating in its own right. It's about a life style, an ethos, a way of life. The Cadburys and other British chocolate makers were Quakers. At the time of their initial experiments with the cocoa bean, Quakers could not become members of Parliament, they couldn't go to university. So their focus became industry; banking, retail, etc. The Cadburys and others chose chocolate. Their efforts to find a process to turn the cocoa bean into something that could be retailed are fascinating. As they became more and more successful, they had to find a way to reconcile their Quaker values with their massive success and money-making abilities. Their solutions make the story even more fascinating. Not only did they deal with industry, they dealt with issues such as slavery, war, poverty and applied their Quaker values to these issues.

It must have been a fascinating time as well as a struggle to develop this industry. Deborah Cadbury has a way with words and makes this whole story so very interesting. The people involved, from the deeply religious George Cadbury to the volatile Forrest Mars, are presented in such an interesting manner. You can picture them very easily. It's a great story, well worth reading and I highly recommend. Mind you, if you have a sweet tooth, it's going to develop a twinge as you read and discover the wonders of the Flake, Curly Wurly, Mars bar and so many others. Enjoy!

Rating: 5 ***** 

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