Saturday, June 08, 2024

Weekend Cooking: The Chocolate Factory by Mary-Lou Stephens

A couple of years ago I read and enjoyed Mary-Lou Stephen's debut novel, Last of the Apple Blossoms, which was set in Tasmania and is about the demise of the apple orchards. This novel, her second, is once again set in Tasmania but this time focuses on the establishment of the Cadbury chocolate factory in a town called Clarement, just outside Hobart, in the 1920s.

Our story starts with a group who are making the journey from the original Cadbury factory near Birmingham in England. Together they are travelling across the world to Hobart where work has begun to build a new Cadbury factory. Our main character is Mrs Dorothy Adwell. She had worked for years in the original factory, and shown a keen interest in the mechanical aspects of the machinery in the factory. Her talent and potential have been recognised and she has been chosen to go to Australia as a supervisor.

Mrs Adwell employs a young woman called Maisie Greenwood. Maisie has had to work from a very young age to help her mother make ends meet. After an interview process which included a home visit to establish her character and her familial situation, Maisie is excited to begin working at Cadbury's and not just because of the endless supplies of chocolate. She hopes that the additional benefits such as night school will help her get on in life. Her main aim is also to ensure that her bright younger sister might escape needing to start working at the tender age of 14 and that she will be able to continue her education.

Both Dorothy and Maisie inadvertently get caught up in in plots to steal the much coveted recipe for Cadbury Dairy Milk. It's hard to believe that establishing a chocolate factory could be such a hotbed of controversary and industrial espionage. There were already Australian chocolate makers and so they weren't keen to have what is one of the largest confectionary companies in the world come to Australia. There was also controversy about how much it was costing Australians in subsidising the new factory.

As much as this book is about starting a new industry in Australia, it is also about the aftermath of war. Each of our characters are dealing with the legacy of WWI. Dorothy is dealing with the loss of her husband. Similarly Maisie and her family are living a life where they are having to work hard due to the loss of her father in the conflict, and there are characters with shellshock, for examples.

If you know about the history of British chocolate makers, then you may be aware that Quakerism has  played a huge role in the industry. This is yet another strand of the story that we get to know in the pages of this book.

I am sharing this review with the New Release Challenge hosted at The Chocolate Lady's Book Review, Foodie Reads hosted at Based on a True Story and with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge which I host.

When the book was released, the publishers shared a couple of original recipes from the 1920s, so I thought I would share a couple of them here.

Weekly meals

Saturday - Apple and Rhubarb pie with custard and cream
Sunday - Steak nachos
Monday -Chicken Kiev, mash, beans and gravy
Tuesday -Chicken and vegetable stir fry
Wednesday - Pork chop, mash, broccoli, carrots, gravy
Thursday -
Friday - Fancy dinner

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page


  1. This sounds interesting. I always preferred Cadbury chocolate bars in the UK, they taste better than the ones we get in Canada. We had a Cadbury factory here in Toronto but it has been bought out by a large global group.

  2. I have no doubt the Cadbury chocolates would taste so much better than the ones we have in the USA...