True Confections

True Confections

2.8 10
by Katharine Weber
     
 

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Take chocolate candy, add a family business at war with itself, and stir with an outsider’s perspective. This is the recipe for True Confections, the irresistible new novel by Katharine Weber, a writer whose work has won accolades from Iris Murdoch, Madeleine L’Engle, Wally Lamb, and Kate Atkinson, to name a few.
 
Alice Tatnall

Overview

Take chocolate candy, add a family business at war with itself, and stir with an outsider’s perspective. This is the recipe for True Confections, the irresistible new novel by Katharine Weber, a writer whose work has won accolades from Iris Murdoch, Madeleine L’Engle, Wally Lamb, and Kate Atkinson, to name a few.
 
Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky’s marriage into the Ziplinsky family has not been unanimously celebrated. Her greatest ambition is to belong, to feel truly entitled to the heritage she has tried so hard to earn. Which is why Zip’s Candies is much more to her than just a candy factory, where she has worked for most of her life. In True Confections, Alice has her reasons for telling the multigenerational saga of the family-owned-and-operated candy company, now in crisis.
 
Nobody is more devoted than Alice to delving into the truth of Zip’s history, starting with the rags-to-riches story of how Hungarian immigrant Eli Czaplinsky developed his famous candy lines, and how each of his candies, from Little Sammies to Mumbo Jumbos, was inspired by an element in a stolen library copy of Little Black Sambo, from which he taught himself English. Within Alice’s vivid and persuasive account (is her unreliability a tactic or a condition?) are the stories of a runaway slave from the cacao plantations of Côte d’Ivoire and the Third Reich’s failed plan to establish a colony on Madagascar for European Jews.
 
Richly informed, deeply moving, and spiked with Weber’s trademark wit, True Confections is, at its heart, a timeless and universal story of love, betrayal, and chocolate.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Indiebound Indie Next Notable Selection, January 2010

"Ms. Weber has studded her narrative with tasty facts about the history of the candy business in America."
—Amy Virshup, New York Times

"TRUE CONFECTIONS is her most delectable novel yet, a book that interweaves a history of candy, chocolate in particular, with a sweeping story of America's immigrants, race relations and religion from before World War II to the present day...True Confections has plenty to digest. The last line is delicious.
Diana Wagman, Los Angeles Times

"With her fifth novel, TRUE CONFECTIONS, Katharine Weber has concocted a sly and playful book...True Confections is a hoot, but a hoot with an edge.
—Karen Long, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"[A] succulently inventive fifth novel...Weber skillfully weaves fact and fiction...A novel should give us "that unique blend of sweetness and pleasure and something else, a deep note of something rich and exotic and familiar" that a bite of good chocolate does. True Confections certainly delivers that delectability.
—Lisa Zeidner, Washington Post Book World

"In Katharine Weber's tricky, treat-filled new novel, set in a fictitious candy factory in real New Haven, what you get is more than you might expect…it's delicious and written with wit and energy."
Hartford Courant

"Weber unleashes a wacky comic sensibility….Filled with candy lore, impassioned critiques of chocolate, and Alice’s one-of-a-kind takes on marriage and family, this is sweet reading for fans of the offbeat."
Booklist

"TRUE CONFECTIONS is as slyly ambitious as it is funny, tackling themes such as greed, intergenerational strife, betrayal, and the decline of the small manufacturer... It’s a real treat."
Historical Novels Review

“Brilliant . . . In an age characterized by artificial sweeteners and cheap fillers, Katharine Weber’s book feels like a gift—a novel filled with characters so real they come off the page and into your life.”
—Rich Cohen, author of Sweet and Low
 
“Delicious, stuffed with humor and brimming with greed and goodness. Weber adroitly evokes a real candy factory, with all its aromas and intrigue, providing the perfect setting for the Ziplinskys to chase their dreams. True Confections is good enough to eat! Better yet, savor one of the best novels of the year!”
—Susan Karl, president and CEO, Annabelle Candy Company

Praise for TRIANGLE

“A thing of beauty . . . a structurally dazzling novel whose formal acrobatics have a purpose beyond their own cleverness. That is, to make readers feel anew the tragedy of the Triangle fire.”
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
 
“Katharine Weber’s crackerjack historical mystery may be the most effective 9/11 novel yet written— and it isn’t even about 9/11.”
—Entertainment Weekly

Praise for THE LITTLE WOMEN

“Stops being droll only to be funny and almost never stops being exceedingly smart.”
—Richard Eder, New York Times

Praise for THE MUSIC LESSON

“Likely to haunt you when you’re done with it . . . A wonderful book.”
—Washington Post Book World

Praise for OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR

“With vibrancy and a steady barrage of linguistic brio . . . Weber provides a blend of artistry and insight far beyond what we usually see in a first novel.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

Jincy Willett
Weber does superb work with Alice. Like all good narrators, she isn't entirely trustworthy, but she's articulate, critical and thoroughly engaged, such interesting company that the reader may not need to know whether that adolescent house-burning was really an accident. She's a formidable woman, and her story doesn't hinge on a Big Reveal. True Confections isn't a rollicking novel, since Alice isn't the rollicking type, but it's got everything: humor, treachery, class struggle, racism, murder, capitalism and mass quantities of candy. Dieting readers may suffer. Others, after turning the last page, may find themselves online, researching the origins of their own dimly remembered childhood treats…The business of America is candy. True Confections is a great American tale.
—The New York Times
Lisa Zeidner
Despite being giddy fun, True Confections also poses some sly, sophisticated postmodern questions. What do candy manufacturers and novelists have in common? According to Weber, more than you'd think. The candymaker, like the novelist, lives, breathes and dreams her creation. The small candy factory, like the literary novelist, finds it hard to generate interest for quirky, original products in the world of tasteless, big-box dreck. A novel should give us "that unique blend of sweetness and pleasure and something else, a deep note of something rich and exotic and familiar" that a bite of good chocolate does. True Confections certainly delivers that delectability.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In this winning, offbeat tale, Weber unfurls Alice Tatnall’s insecure Unitarian adolescence, which leads to her approval-seeking adulthood as the wife of candy heir Howard “Howdy” Ziplinsky. Alice has felt ostracized by family and peers after accidentally burning down a classmate’s house as a teenager. As a result, her college acceptance is rescinded, and she ends up working at Zip’s Candies, where she meets and falls in love with the owner’s son, a Jewish man 10 years her senior. After marrying Howard, Alice takes to the candy business quickly and has two kids. Alice’s story, framed as an affidavit, is a pleasure to read and full of small and not so small surprises, including the near-tragedy at the candy company that has much to do with why she’s writing an affidavit in the first place. Alice is an immediately lovable narrator, and her narration eventually bears hints about its possible lack of credibility, giving readers even more of a reason to keep turning pages. This story of love, life and sweets is a genuine treat. (Dec.)
Kirkus Reviews
Sweet and sour tales of life in a New England candy factory. Perhaps Weber wanted to embrace the same premise-intricate oral history of a doomed manufacturing plant, laced with family drama-that underpinned her previous novel (Triangle, 2006, etc.). While similarly amorphous and rambling, this lighter text adds enough satiric bite to make it slightly more palatable. It takes the form of a legal affidavit by Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky, who recalls her 33-year career at the Zip's Candies factory, starting with her initial infatuation. "A certain burnt sugar and chocolate aroma hung in the air, that marvelous, inevitable, ineffable, just-right aura of Zip's Candies, that unique blend of sweetness and pleasure and something else, a deep note of something rich and exotic and familiar . . . I have loved that smell every day of my life from then to now," Alice confesses. After revealing herself as the local "Arson Girl" who burned down a classmate's house during an adolescent fit, Alice examines her troubled relationship with Howard "Howdy" Ziplinsky, heir to the candy throne, and her subsequent marriage into the convoluted family. The novel's most successful elements are its most uncomfortable ones. Alice reveals trade secrets like the roots of signature product Little Sammies, which take their name from the controversial children's book Little Black Sambo, and the company-ending Little Susies, a white confection snuggled uncomfortably between two Little Sammies, attracting charges of racism. Weber's pointed deconstruction of the beloved children's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is also bracing. Unfortunately, the narrative frequently bogs down in interminable, long-winded accounts ofthe family history and the subsequent fight for control between Howdy and his greedy sister Irene, ending in yet another conflagration. Too often wastes the tasty potential of its sticky setting.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307395870
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
12/07/2010
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.14(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.61(d)

Meet the Author

KATHARINE WEBER is the author of the novels Triangle, The Little Women, The Music Lesson, and Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, the cultural historian Nicholas Fox Weber, and is a thesis adviser in the graduate writing program at Columbia University.

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True Confections 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
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GailCooke More than 1 year ago
"How sweet it is!" TRUE CONFECTIONS is as irresistible as a box of chocolates - the story is filled with greed, love, fun, lust and the incorrigible Alice Ziplinsky. She is not a true Ziplinsky not having been born into the family but married into it. Hired fresh out of Wilbur Cross High School to work on the Zip's Candies Factory floor, Alice diligently approached her tasks in the summer of 1975. On her first day at work after five minutes she had just about mastered the art of "separating and straightening the Tigermelts" when Alice looked up and saw for the first time her future ex-husband, Howard Ziplinsky, son of the firm's founder, Sam, and his grumpy wife, Frieda. Founded in 1924 Zip's did well with the manufacture of sweets, especially Little Sammies, so named because the elder Ziplinskys learned to speak English by reading Little Black Sambo. However, success was not to last because a few bad decisions, such as the production of "Bereavemints," which had a deleterious effect on the mourners and led to lawsuits. Plus, Zip's was small and could be eaten alive by conglomerates and other hungry giants. Is it curtains for Zips? But first some history - Alice (who inherited the majority of the company) has been through many years of psychoanalysis and now feels fully prepared to dissect and describe the family's ids and idiosyncracies in an effort to retain control of the business. That makes for an amazing story that includes the use of slaves on a cacao plantation and involvement with the Jewish mafia. Weber fills her tale with a three generational history, smile provoking asides, and a blend of fact and fiction. - Gail Cooke
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harstan More than 1 year ago
Ever since she accidentally burned down the home of a classmate as a teen during a temper rage, Alice Tatnall has just wanted to be accepted as a person and not as "Arson Girl". The incident cost her a college scholarship and forced her to accept work at Zip Candies. There she meets the confectioner's heir Howard "Howdy" Ziplinsky, ten years older than her and Jewish. They fall in love and marry, but she remains ostracized by the family as the "Arson Girl". Two kids (Julie and Jacob) and working diligently at Zip Candies apparently is not enough to overcome that one transgression even though over three decades have passed. In an affidavit, the fiftyish Alice explains the history of the company that she cherishes. Zip's was started by impoverished Hungarian immigrant Eli Czaplinsky who developed his famous first candies like Little Sammies and Mumbo Jumbos from teaching himself English after stealing a copy of the controversial Little Black Sambo from the library. She further explains connections to a runaway slave, Nazis and the Little Susies crisis as well as her relationship with Howard who is in Madagascar while she battles his avaricious sister Irene who plans a hostile takeover in order to strip the company of its assets for her personal gain. Using a legal affidavit as a neat gimmick to tell the tale of a candy company and its extended owning family, True Confections is a delightful story that is at its best when the plot pulls no punches as it explores racism in the confectionary world. The cast is solid though seen through the filter of Alice who at times cleverly hesitates on her true confessions re confections. This is a deep look at a person who has found her life making candy and the company that she cherishes; especially the roots. Harriet Klausner