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Cursed Bread

UK Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
US Publisher: Doubleday

If you eat the bread, you’ll die, he said. The statement made no sense, but it filled me with an electric dread.

Elodie is the baker’s wife. A plain, unremarkable woman, ignored by her husband and underestimated by her neighbours, she burns with the secret desire to be extraordinary. One day a charismatic new couple appear in town – the ambassador and his sharp-toothed wife, Violet – and Elodie quickly falls under their spell. All summer long she stalks them through the shining streets: inviting herself into their home, eavesdropping on their coded conversations, longing to be part of their world.

Meanwhile, beneath the tranquil surface of daily life, strange things are happening. Six horses are found dead in a sun-drenched field, laid out neatly on the ground like an offering. Widows see their lost husbands walking up the moonlit river, coming back to claim them. A teenage boy throws himself into the bonfire at the midsummer feast. A dark intoxication is spreading through the town, and when Elodie finally understands her role in it, it will be too late to stop.

Audacious and mesmerising, Cursed Bread is a fevered confession, an entry into memory’s hall of mirrors, a fable of obsession and transformation. Sophie Mackintosh spins a darkly gleaming tale of a town gripped by hysteria, envy like poison in the blood, and desire that burns and consumes.


A shimmering fever-dream of a novel, teasing the reader [..] while finding a fresh narrative framework for the relationship between monotonous small-town life and repressed female desire. Cursed Bread contains more riches than many a novel twice its length ― Telegraph

A quietly rich maturation of Mackintosh’s skill… This is a book about the power desire and greed exert over reality and memory… Mackintosh has entered a brilliant new stage of writing ― Guardian

Nimble, terrifying… Mackintosh is a wonderful prose stylist and she uses many of the resources that served her well in her Booker prize-nominated debut, The Water Cure: the slow unravelling of sanity, the isolated and mysterious setting, that feeling of panting, crawling, unfulfilled desire… A dreamy sapphic romp ― The Times

Remarkable, sensuous, thrillingly written . . . Mackintosh’s evocation of desire is so tangible that you can smell the aroma of illicit sex ― Observer

A richly atmospheric tale of greed, desire and vainglorious ambition, the plot centres around Elodie, wife of the village baker, who projects the wants and desires from her own unfulfilling marriage onto the arrival of two glamorous newcomers to the village… Shimmering with an almost hallucinatory quality throughout, closing its pages at The End feels like waking up from a fever dream. Fascinating. ― Marie Claire

A sun-scorched fever dream . . . Mackintosh’s top-notch phrasemaking and knack for forming uncanny images generate a baleful atmosphere of lust and dread in this splendidly peculiar tale ― Daily Mail

Sensual, luminous, transcendent… This tale of obsession, desire and betrayal has a timeless, dreamlike quality. It confirms Mackintosh as one of our finest young writers ― The Bookseller, Editor’s Choice

As in her previous novels, Mackintosh’s prose is eerie but minimalist – dreamlike yet grounded. Her style elevates plot to the status of fable or allegory without resorting to straightforward metaphor. This a story shrouded in mist, thick with meaning ― New Statesman

This novel is a masterclass in observation, of fracturing personalities but also in its tight and nuanced portrait of the rituals and minutiae of small-town life. Afterwards, you’ll want to devour it all over again ― Independent

Mackintosh’s dark imagination and precision as a prose stylist combine to devastating effect, as unsettling as it is unpredictable ― Financial Times