Saturday, August 31, 2013
The Cook’s Temptation - Joyce Wayne
Set in Victorian England – an era that Joyce finds fascinating – the novel is about Cordelia Tilley, a strong-minded Jewish woman’s dilemma: to be true to herself versus her desire to be accepted in the English society.
“It’s a story of an outsider trying hard to adjust and be a part of her new environment,” Joyce explains. “In that sense, the novel will find resonance with immigrants who experience such transition. The adjustment is easy initially but becomes difficult as time passes, and this is because the society is unwilling to go beyond superficial acceptance.”
The Cook’s Temptation brings to life the complexities of Victorian life, first in County Devon and then in London’s East end.
“I’m fascinated by the Victorian era and especially fiction from that era. George Eliot is one of my favourite authors. I also like Sarah Walters and Michael Cox, both of whom wrote about the Victorian era. And you tend to write what you read,” Joyce says.
The novel portrays one woman’s life, class conflict, religious intolerance, suspicion and betrayal. Cordelia is the daughter of a Jewish mother and an Anglican father. Her mother has groomed her for a life in English society while her father, a tough publican, has shown no tolerance for his wife’s social climbing or the conceits of their perspicacious daughter.
Cordelia’s mother dies from typhoid fever, she tries to run the family’s establishment, she falls prey to a local industrialist, she gives birth to a son, she is tormented by her husband and his family. Finally, she is rescued by suffragette friends and sets off to start a new life in London.
“The idea of the novel came when I visited a graveyard at Holsworthy village north of Devon and I saw a grave with the name Cordelia on the stone. It was then that I decided that I’d write about Cordelia,” Joyce says.
“The book is also about the many layered British society, the complicated relationship that an outsider has with a society. It also explores the not-so-subtle antisemitism of the British society in that era.”
The Cook’s Temptation is about one woman’s life, class conflict, religious intolerance, suspicion and betrayal. It’s about a woman who is unpredictable, both strong and weak willed, both kind and heinous, victim and criminal. It’s a genuine Victorian saga, full of detail, twists and turns, memorable scenes, full of drama and pathos.
According to Joyce, “Cordelia isn’t just one woman, she’s many women.”
After reading the manuscript of The Cook’s Temptation, author Jasmine D’Costa, who has been instrumental in turning many newcomers to Canada into writers, publicly applauded Joyce. She wrote: “Reading books written by people I know is always a shock. I read Joyce Wayne’s manuscript of The Cook’s Temptation soon to be out in print, and discovered a new person. Wow what a story she wove! And from where did all those sex scenes come from? I am hoping it is purely from imagination.”
Joyce has an MA in English literature and has taught journalism at Sheridan College, which is where I met her in 2009. She revived my interest in literature, and for the first time, under her guidance, I formally studied literature.
We argued intensely over what constituted good literature, and I remember an especially intense argument over Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes. She was convinced the book was a modern Canadian classic, and I was niggardly in praising it because I felt it was similar (in theme) to Alex Haley’s Roots.
I re-read Hill’s novel recently when my son Che said he enjoyed the book. And I must admit Joyce was, indeed, right. The book is uniquely Canadian. I didn’t get the quintessential 'Canadian-ness' of the novel when I read it in 2009 because I wasn’t familiar with Canada.
Joyce is a winner of the Diaspora Dialogues contest for fiction, and has been awarded the Fiona Mee Award for literary journalism. She is the co-writer of the documentary film, So Far From Home in 2010, a film about refugee journalists persecuted for their political views, and various of her other works have been published in Parchment, Golden Horseshoe Anthology, Canadian Voices, TOK6.