The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte (2017) by Lesley Truffle

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Author: Lesley Truffle

The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte is a rollicking ride of decadence, betrayal, aphrodisiac elixirs, Shakespeare, champagne, poison, love, more champagne, delicious pastries, wild women and reckless, libertine men.

It is pure escapism and I loved it.

From the first page I was captivated by the life of Sasha and the thriving, conniving, lawless Tasmanian harbour-side town of Wolfftown. It is a colourful tale, full of whimsy and magic about making the best of what life hands you amidst a culture of moral ambiguity.

We meet 22 year old Sasha in 1912 languishing (in total luxury) in gaol for murder. Writing her memoir, she takes us back to her tragic childhood with a dead father and runaway, murderess mother. She is cared for by her doting and wealthy grandfather and aunt who, although not social outcasts, certainly have a bad reputation. Early on Sasha realises, quite happily, that she too is likely to become a ‘black sheep’.

She is educated and taught to think for herself. Thanks to her reprobate of a grandfather and open-minded aunt she grows into a worldly-wise, sassy, intelligent woman who decides at a young age to make her own way in the world. She learns that most social conventions in Wolfftown are based on bigotry, hypocrisy, nepotism and ignorance. When she opens her own patisserie shop, she makes it clear that she will stand for none of these things which make her a nemesis to some, a curiosity to others, and an unobtainable object of desire to many of the men in town.

Sasha is strong, resilient, compassionate and generous to those loyal to her. Her undoing begins upon meeting the Dasher brothers. One betrays, seduces and introduces her to an addiction that nearly claims her life. The other loves her.

The secondary characters are as vivid and alive as Sasha. Her best friend Viola is hilarious and insatiable with a heart of gold. Her jaunty grandfather, Brendan is as rakish as an old man can be, and her aunt Lil lives voraciously and depicts melancholia with heartbreaking beauty. Even the psychic, Buddhist goldfish, Alphonse swam into my heart.

There is more profanity, sex, drugs and general racy-ness than I usually read, but I was so engrossed with the story I didn’t mind at all. Perhaps, like Sasha, we all have a bit of the black sheep in us. 🙂

I love that Truffle set the story in Tasmania. It would have been so easy to base it in Sydney or Melbourne or even one of the pirate coves of Cornwall. There is so much mystery surrounding post-Van Diemen’s Land Tasmania that it lends the story an enigmatic, fantasy element.

I wish that Wolfftown was a real place so I could walk along the cobbled streets of the old town, see the faded buildings and the harbour docks and if I’m really lucky perhaps glimpse the ghosts of Sasha, Viola, Brendan, Lil and Captain Adam Dasher, all stirring up trouble while guzzling gallons of Tasmania’s finest bubbly.

I can’t wait to be carried away again on Lesley Truffle’s next wild adventure.

5 stars and a second helping of croquembouche at Lady Dasher’s 😉

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