History was always my worst subject. The way it was taught years ago made it dry as toast, and it bored me to tears. All I could think while reading Deborah Cadbury’s “Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers,” was how riveting a subject history can be in the right hands, even an account replete with dates and data.
The title is a little misleading, as it lets you believe the main focus is rivalry, when it is just as much about cooperation. These families, the Frys, Rowntrees, and Cadburys, were all Quakers and believed in wealth as a way to uplift everyone. Their philosophy guided them through many decades of expansion, and infused their material success with practical benefits for all their employees. The changes Cadbury’s enacted and the healthy lifestyle they engendered are inspirational.
Ms. Cadbury is an excellent writer who tackles very complicated subjects with aplomb, making even the most detailed material move seamlessly along. Whether it is the rise of chocolate manufacturing in England, and ensuing rivalries between Swiss, U.S., and British companies, or some little morsel about familial relationships, every sentence is worth reading. She peppers her narrative with the most mesmerizing details. There is even a selection of photos from 1824 through the 20th century, which really helps you get a feel for the Cadbury family and life in a bygone era.
So many books start out with a bang and end with a whimper, but this one actually gets progressively more interesting as Ms. Cadbury weaves the Hershey story in America, and possible hostile takeovers of Cadbury’s, into her compelling tale.
If you would like to hear Ms. Cadbury talk about her book check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWq0SJiWJE4.