Suzanne Evans’s important and compelling account of a gifted and courageous Manitoulin Island woman who wanted to make a difference is a page-turner. With sensitivity, craft, and imagination, Evans significantly expands our understanding of Canadian women’s contributions to our history.
The book takes the reader on a vivid journey, following Ethel Mulvany from Manitoulin Island to the prison camp at Changi, Singapore, and back again. Evans combines meticulous research with a very readable writing style to create a sweeping narrative that touches on food history, the history of mental illness and its treatment, and the experiences of civilians and POWs during the Second World War.
I loved every minute of The Taste of Longing. Evans has captured Ethel, and put her in context, not shirking (or misunderstanding!) those complex aspects of her character that both pushed her to greatness, but also ultimately caused her so much suffering at times. This is an “I-can’t-put-it-down” book, an historical biography that reads like a novel—an ordinary life made extraordinary through circumstance and an inordinate amount of courage.
"Suzanne Evans brings a novelist’s eye and an historian’s diligence to the story of Ethel Mulvany, a small-town girl with audacious ambitions and boundless confidence who embarks on?a?quixotic tour of the Asian Pacific on the brink of WWII. Amid the perils of war, she proves a courageous and clever survivor, enduring imprisonment, starvation and torture during the war, and a creative and resourceful entrepreneur and benefactor in the life she rebuilds for herself in Canada after her liberation.?In Suzanne Evans’ hands,?Mulvany’s story?becomes?moving, inspiring and unforgettable."
“As gripping as a novel, The Taste of Longing is infused with Suzanne Evans’ keen sense of psychology and language. Its plot is made all the more riveting by the historical facts of the deprivation of the prisoners of war in Changi Prison. Ethel was a remarkable and fearless woman. This vivid biography is also a uniquely female history, infused with nourishment no less important for being imaginary.”
This is a story of hardship, cruelty, and disease—but also of endurance, indomitability, and friendship. Centred around a remarkable cookbook, Evans vividly recounts Ethel’s resilience and commemoration of the war that marked her for life.
This is a story about an unusual woman in an unbearable situation. Evans has delved deep and written with great sympathy about the long drama of picking up the pieces of a broken life.
A fascinating story that begs to be told. Ethel directs the voyage of her life from her anchor, rural Manitoulin Island, to Changi Prison, where her energy and creativity did much to sustain the bodies and spirits of the some 400 women and children interned there. Among her projects were imaginary teas and dinner parties, fashion shows and quilts, and most poignant of all, a cookbook of remembered recipes the women longed for.
Ethel’s experiences are harrowing and sad, triumphant yet lonely, mesmerizing and horrific. In this page-turner, the sisterhood and traitors of the POW camp resonate off the page, with the added culinary delights and comfort foods of the afternoon teas of Changi Prison.
The stories of what women contribute, suffer, and carry in wartime are rarely told. With original research and an elegant style, Evans allows us to see Ethel, to realize the price many women pay in conflicts, and to appreciate their resilience and grace. Such remarkable stories of Canadian women need to be told.