Scandal & revenge to be be sure, but all fur in photograph is fake.
The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte
Review by Robyn Walton
THE AUSTRALIAN: Weekend Australian Review
April 1 2017
‘Lesley Truffle’s material girls opt for autonomy’
In her new novel, The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte, and its recent predecessor Hotel du Barry, Melbourne author Lesley Truffle gives the young female protagonists extraordinary adventures and social mobility. Her humour is droll, her tone arch, her satire pervasive … [ read more at link ]
Review by Karen Brooks
Author : The Locksmith’s Daughter.
6 February 2017
The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte is the fantastically titled second novel by Melbourne-based writer, Lesley Truffle and I have to say, it is unlike any book I have ever read.
Part historical fiction, part-fantastical and whimsical romp, part crime mystery, cooking extravaganza and cautionary fable, it’s also a picaresque novel that tells the tale of the irrepressible Sasha Torte, flame-haired daughter of a murderess and heiress to a bad reputation and melancholy, who becomes not only a world-famous pastry-chef in, of all places, the wilds of Tasmania in the early 1900s, but courts men, drugs and danger with abandon.
Told with Truffle’s wonderful flair, at first I wasn’t sure what to make of a book that opens with the heroine in a luxuriously appointed prison accused of murder. Deciding to pen her memoirs, Sasha then takes the reader back through her childhood, revealing how she grew up in a brutal and unconventional family surrounded by dedicated servants and a doting grandfather. As she matures, she learns to deal with nepotism, bullying, the cruelty of strangers and their kindness in equal measure. When her Aunt Lily enters her life, she finds a soul-mate and confidant to whom she can also aspire.
Launched into the society that wants to reject her, but finds they’re unable to resist her, the beautiful Sasha appears set to conquer not only men, but the globe.
But in earning devotion, Sasha also attracts enmity, even from those who purport to love her and it’s when the handsome Dasher brothers enter her sphere that trouble for Sasha and those she cares about looms large and deadly.
Featuring wilful, sassy and smart women, dedicated and dastardly men, horses, dogs, a psychic goldfish (no, I’m not kidding) ghosts, gangs, and, of course, amazing confectionary and pastries, this novel is fast-paced, enormous fun and heart-aching at the same time. Able to transport you from the docks of fictitious and rough Wolfftown, to parties on wealthy estates, then sail you to London (where the Hotel Du Barry has a cameo role), Paris, Vienna and beyond, you find yourself captivated by Sasha – honest, steadfast and fair – as you ride the roller-coaster of her full and often tragic life.
For all its fantastical elements, the book coheres into a luminous whole, an adventure and story like no other that you feel the richer and more fulfilled for reading. Like one of Sasha’s sweet creations, it lingers in your mouth, head and heart long after you’ve finished it. Quite simply, it’s so completely different and a real treat.
Review by Clive Hodges
Good Reading 1 February 2017
‘The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte is pure escapism. The author presents us with immoderation in excess, unrestrained melodrama and Charles Daniel O’Rourke, patissier par excellence. A rip-roaring, imaginative and exhilarating tale.’
My notes on the writing of The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte
I first came up with the idea of the world-famous pastry chef, Sacha Torte when I attended a raucous Melbourne playhouse to see a fringe theatre play. My friends and I were half-cut on Russian vodka, so I can’t remember too much about the play – except for an extraordinary large spoon wielded by one of the players. I couldn’t stop thinking about the absurdity of the goddamn spoon. It haunted me.
A few days later, when I was waiting to be served in a terribly chic cake shop, I admired the magnificent gateaux on display and decided to name my pâtissière Sacha Torte. It’s a sly homage to the sublime chocolate cake known as Sachertorte. This cake was invented by 16-year-old Austrian apprentice, Franz Sacher, in 1832 for Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich in Vienna. Accordingly, the Sachertore has both pedigree and heritage.
Eventually I came up with the idea for a comedic theatre piece set in Tasmania and this play evolved into my novel, The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte. Sasha experienced such a discordant, strange childhood that she’s become a rebellious maverick, wilfully choosing her own path to infamy.
Sasha Torte’s hometown, Wolfftown, is a gun slinging town peopled by gangs, wild women and reckless men. Wolfftown looks out over the Southern Ocean, magnificent mountains and unyielding wilderness. It was founded by morally ambiguous folk – siblings Emerl and Marigold Wolff – and nourished and nurtured by all the available vices of the time.
I wanted Sasha’s fictitious hometown to be realistic in terms of location, so I made two road trips to Tasmania. I eventually decided Wolfftown would be situated on the wild, wild West Coast. I wanted it to have affinity with tales of America’s wild west in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I was thinking it should be a fusion between an Australian country town and the type of rural outpost featured in Italian Westerns where anything is possible, and the denizens of the town are up for all manner of criminal activity.
I’ve always been fascinated by the films made by director Sergio Leone in the 1960’s such as The Good, the bad and the Ugly or A Fistful of Dollars. Evil can be extremely laconic and attractive. It need not necessarily be a mutation of anger, greed, hatred, immorality or social dysfunction.
Sometimes evil just is.
In the winter of 1912 on the wild West Coast of Tasmania, Wolfftown’s most notorious heiress and murderess, Sasha Torte, tells the tale of her spectacular downfall.
Forsaken by her parents and raised by criminals and reprobates, Sasha becomes a world-famous pastry chef at the tender age of seventeen. Entanglement with the disreputable Dasher brothers leads to love, but also to a dangerous addiction.
Behind bars in Wolfftown’s gaol, Sasha sips premium champagne as she recalls a life of seduction, betrayal, ghosts, opium and an indiscreet quantity of confectionary – and plots her escape.
The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte: revenge, redemption and pastry is a novel of intrepid protagonists, dark villains, wild gangs, luxurious hotels … and murder.
See Harper Collins Australia blog to read sample chapters (& author’s personal reflection, Dancing with the Devil).
I was raised in a godless Melbourne household. We were supposedly Church of England but never went to church, said grace or possessed a family bible. However, my mother did entertain the local vicar… [read more at link ]
See More for author’s guest posts, radio interviews and events.
Hotel du Barry
Review by Karen Brooks
Author of The Locksmith’s Daughter
‘This is a delicious romp filled with such memorable characters, witty, snippy asides that had me laughing out loud, heartfelt scenes that make your soul ache, and characters you want to sit back and swill gin with. The tone is marvellous – light and yet not at the expense of beautiful writing or deeper meaning. It’s so very different to the kind of books I’ve been reading lately and utterly refreshing.’
See the website of Karen Brooks for full review.
Review from Times Live: March picks from Kerre McIvor
‘Set in the inter-war period, when Europe tried to drink, dance and bonk their cares away, this marvellously lush novel evokes all the spirit of the Jazz Age.The cast of characters are wonderful and Truffle brings all the mad passion of the times to life on the page. A fun read.’
My notes on the writing of the Hotel du Barry
When I start writing a story or a novel I usually begin with a single image and in this case it came from reading a non-fiction description of busy, impoverished mothers in the 1930’s – somewhere hot and humid in America – pegging their youngest babies onto the clothesline. It kept them out of harm’s way and let them wriggle around freely, enjoying the occasional cool breeze wafting over the landscape.
Perched on a bar stool later that night – drinking vodka with a lovesick male buddy who was hell bent on staying liquored up the whole weekend – my mind wandered. And an image came to me of a plump, chortling baby being surreptitiously pegged to the clothesline of a luxury hotel. And with only one ear on the tragic tale of woe being told, I found myself grinning somewhat inappropriately.
At that stage, I couldn’t see who was doing the pegging but the image stayed with me, along with the insight that women do the darndest things when they’re pushed to extremes by their wayward lovers.
In the days that followed I created London’s Hotel du Barry:
At night it was floodlit and fiery; a flamboyant mishmash of Italianate and Venetian architecture, with a few quirky Renaissance and classic Greek elements added on. As a wedding cake, it was an architectural masterpiece of reckless proportions.
And from these beginnings came the devious but charming characters who lived and worked at the hotel and the strange, sinister and unpredictable events that eventuate.
I do hope the Hotel du Barry makes you smile. Martinis will be flung in faces, reputations savaged and there will be murder, deception and mayhem. You’re in for a wild trip but rest assured you are in capable hands. Just stay on your toes and do not get caught peeking through keyholes. For if you do, the hotel dick, Jim Blade will have to extract your confession and as you will discover, he’s never half assed about anything.
Many of the Hotel du Barry clientele stay from months or sometimes years. And who knows? Like many guests, you may never want to leave.
The image of gargoyles (above) is from the cover of Hotel du Barry designed and illustrated by Hazel Lam, Harper Collins Design Studio. Cover images by shutterstock.com
Hotel du Barry is nine floors of wickedness, jealousies, aberrant desires and murderous intent. It’s The Grand Budapest Hotel with a dash of The Great Gatsby.
Having witnessed the end of World War One and glimpsed the Grim Reaper rushing past, folk at London’s Hotel du Barry are hell bent on celebrating life.
Plotting, manipulation and scheming are de rigeur at the Hotel du Barry. And the owner, Mr Daniel du Barry, often suspects that his loyal staff are up to no good. He’s right. And what Daniel doesn’t know, he can always find out from the hotel dick, Mr Jim Blade.
Security is a high priority at the Hotel du Barry, which is just as well given that many strange, sinister and unpredictable events are about to unfold. Martinis will be flung in faces, reputations savaged and there will be murder, deception, greed and mayhem.
In Australia Hotel du Barry & The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte are available from:
Bookstores such as Dymocks or Independent bookshops such as Readings, The Avenue (Melbourne), Harry Hartog (NSW & ACT) etc.
Find a bookshop near you: http://www.aba.org.au/find-a-bookshop.
Harper Collins Publishers: http://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460751435/hotel-du-barry
also available online at: Booktopia, Book Depository, The Nile, Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Boomerang Books.
Hotel du Barry is available as an eBook, audio recording (Bolinda Audio) and in large print.
Hotel du Barry has been published in Europe by Harper Collins: it is available in German (hardback), Italian and Spanish (paperbacks).
Bolinda Audio: The Hotel du Barry complete and unabridged & narrated by actress Willow Nash. http://www.bolinda.com
The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte is also available as an ebook and an audio recording (Bolinda Audio).
Bolinda Audio: The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte, complete and unabridged & narrated by Australian actress Caroline Lee. http://www.bolinda.com