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True Confections: A Novel Paperback – December 7, 2010

3.5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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 As a result, her college acceptance is rescinded, and she ends up working at Zip's Candies, where she meets and falls in love with the owner's son, a Jewish man 10 years her senior.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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In her fifth novel, after Triangle (2006), Weber unleashes a wacky comic sensibility. Ostracized by her high-school clique and denied admission to college after accidentally setting fire to a classmate’s home, Alice Tatnall applies for a job at Zip’s Candies on a whim and finds her life’s calling. Immediately taken under the wing of candy magnate Sam Ziplinsky, Alice learns the ins and outs of the candy-making business, from mixing the proper proportions of the ingredients to repairing the ancient production line that churns out the company’s reliable moneymakers, Little Sammies, Tigermelts, and Mumbo Jumbos. She further cements her place within the company and the family by marrying Sam’s son and heir Howard “Howdy” Ziplinsky and bearing him two children. Billed as an affidavit, Alice’s slyly funny, frequently self-serving, and perhaps unreliable narration leads to some unexpected surprises when Alice’s old nickname, Arson Girl, comes back to haunt her in a big way. 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. --Joanne Wilkinson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (December 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307395871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307395870
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,928,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Katharine Weber's five highly-praised and award-winning novels have made her a book club favorite. Her sixth book, a memoir called The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities, was published by Crown in July 2011 and won raves from the critics, from Ben Brantley in the New York Times ("Ms. Weber is able to arrange words musically, so that they capture the elusive, unfinished melodies that haunt our memoires of childhood") to the Dallas Morning News ("gracefully written, poignant and droll"), the NY Daily News ("Old Scandals, what fun...the core of her tale is that of elegant sin and betrayal"), and the Boston Globe (a masterful memoir of the private world of a very public family"), among others. The Broadway paperback of The Memory of All That was published in 2012.

Her most recent novel, True Confections, the story of a chocolate candy factory in crisis, was published in January 2010 by Shaye Areheart Books and was published in December 2010 in paperback by Broadway Books. Critics raved: "A great American tale" (New York Times Book Review), "Marvelous, a vividly imagined story about love, obsession and betrayal" (Boston Globe), "Katharine Weber is one of the wittiest, most stimulating novelists at work today...wonderful fun and endlessly provocative" (Chicago Tribune),"Succulently inventive" (Washington Post),"Her most delectable novel yet" (L.A. Times).

Katharine's fiction debut in print, the short story "Friend of the Family," appeared in The New Yorker in January, 1993. Her first novel, Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (of which that story was a chapter), was published by Crown Publishers, Inc. in 1995 and was published in paperback by Picador in 1996. It will be published in a new paperback edition by Broadway Books in Summer, 2011.

She was named by Granta to the controversial list of 50 Best Young American Novelists in 1996.

Her second novel, The Music Lesson, was published by Crown Publishers, Inc. in 1999, and was published in paperback by Picador in 2000. The Music Lesson has been published in twelve foreign languages, and is being reissued in the U.S. by Broadway Books in January, 2011.

The Little Women was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2003 and by Picador in 2004. All three novels were named Notable Books by The New York Times Book Review.

Her fourth novel, Triangle, which takes up the notorious Triangle Waist company factory fire of 1911, was published in 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and in 2007 by Picador.

Katharine's maternal grandmother was the songwriter Kay Swift. Since Swift's death in 1993, Katharine has been a Trustee and the Administrator of the Kay Swift Memorial Trust, which is dedicated to preserving and promoting the music of Kay Swift. This work includes the first Broadway musical with a score by a woman, "Fine and Dandy," and several popular show tunes of the era, among them "Fine and Dandy" and "Can't We Be Friends?" (www.kayswift.com)

Katharine is on the staff at Star, a foundation dedicated to offering personal growth retreats in the Arizona desert. (www.starfound.org)

Katharine is the Richard L. Thomas Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College, a five-year appointment to teach every spring term beginning in 2013. In the past she has taught fiction writing at Connecticut College, Yale University (for eight years), and the Paris Writers Workshop. She was the Kratz Writer in Residence at Goucher College in Spring 2006, and was an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the graduate writing program in the School of the Arts at Columbia University for six years.

Katharine is married to the cultural historian Nicholas Fox Weber (author most recently of The Bauhaus Group), and they have two daughters.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's almost impossible to resist gustatory metaphors in describing this lively tale of a family-run candy business, and one apt glycemic analogy might be mille feuilles (the French puff pastry composed of "a thousand leaves," or layers). But in fact this is not a sweet story, and I think a better food comparison would be an Indian biryani: a large, complex, subtly spiced, potentially messy entree that yields sometimes surprising ingredients (like cardamom pods and almonds) the deeper you dig.

Katharine Weber is an erudite but highly entertaining writer, who scatters bits of French, Latin and German (not to mention Malagasi--the language of Madagascar, as we learn) phrases through her otherwise earthy and mostly hilarious tale of four generations of the Ziplinksy family. The first-person narrator, Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky (a.k.a. Arson Girl), has a WASP family of origin but when she marries into the Zip clan, she almost immediately absorbs the high-energy, combat-ready modus operandi of her new meshpocheh.

The compelling story is told in the form of an affidavit, and it is only one of Weber's literary achievements that she grips our attention without revealing, until near the end, the reason for the affidavit. But this is no dry document--it's a rollicking tale of fascinating family dynamics and some dysfunction, as well as an apparently fact-studded tutorial on candy manufacturing.

At the outset, we have no reason to believe that Alice is telling anything other than the truth, but gradually we realize that either she is changing over the years, or she has always been a somewhat unreliable and opinionated narrator. The issue of truth is at the core of the novel, and the reader is frequently challenged to sort it out from the embellishments.
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Alice Tatnall, a repressed Protestant, walks into Zip's Candies for a job, and becomes the symbol of a hard-driving, smart businesswomen and candy aficionado. Young teen-age Alice has damaged her reputation and entrance into Middlebury College after wrongly pleading guilty to a fire. Her parents are cold and undemonstrative so she easily embraces the owner of Zip's Candies, Sam Ziplinsky. Sam, with some ulterior motives, reacts positively to Alice and she learns the business from top to bottom. She marries Sam's son, Howard (called Howdy) and works at earning her new Jewish heritage.

She wants to be converted into the perfect Jewish mother and wife but to no avail. Her mother-in-law, Frieda, the most comedic character in this novel, will not give Alice a chance. One of the best scenes is Frieda's chicken soup recipe that, of course, is not the real recipe and Alice's chicken soup is a bland failure. The novel is consumed with candy making and the reader learns how this small company manufacturers three profitable products: Little Sammies, Mumbo Jumbos and Tigermelts. In addition to chocolate and sugar, the other ingredients making an impact are anti-Semitism, child slave labor on plantations, immigration, family trusts and the sweat and hard work of the American small business.

Weber provides detailed scenes of candy making, business dynamics and since Alice is the narrator, we learn about it all from her perspective. Alice attempts to give us a fair-sided view of the family. She riles on her sister-in-law. Irene, who has never worked a day in her life, but will use the family money for her misguided causes and resents Alice her percentage of the Ziplinsky Family Trust. The background of the book is Alice's affidavit of how Sam Ziplinksy's will should be interpreted.
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Now, do I know more about the making of candy - both worldwide and in the United States - after reading Katherine Weber's novel, "True Confections"? I sure do, just as I know more about the German plan to populate the island of Madagascar with Jewish refugees in a forced resettlement in WW2. The amount of history - of both the sweet and not-so-sweet kind - I learned from reading Weber's quirky novel is adding to my store of somewhat useless information. (I'm a whiz at Trivial Pursuit, by the way...)

"True Confections" is written in the form of a deposition that Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky has to write for a court case she's involved in. Is it criminal or civil? I think it's civil, though Alice, now in her 50's, has a charge of arson in her past. "It was an accident. I didn't mean to burn my friend's house down with a water gun filled with charcoal fuel!", she writes, referring to an event that changed her life, putting off college, and going to work at a candy company in New Haven, CT. She takes to the making of candy like the proverbial duck to the proverbial water. She marries at age 18 the son of the owner of the family-held candy company - Howard Ziplinsky - and becomes a working partner in the company, Zip's Candies. From production to marketing, Alice tends business as she tends her two children by Howard. The company, founded in the mid-1920's by a Hungarian immigrant - is still successful, producing niche chocolate and licorice candies.

Years go by and Howard and Alice make both a family and good candy together, but Howard leaves her to live in Madagascar, which is the home of the other half of the Ziplinsky family. Alice takes full control of Zip's and things start happening under her control.
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