Days of Sugar and Spice: A Saccharine Tale That Lacks Zing

Days of Sugar and Spice Cover. Loïc Clément and Anne Montel, Europe Comics. November 2019.

Days of Sugar and Spice

Loïc Clément (writer), Cromatik Ltd (letters), Montana Kane (translation), Anne Montel (artist and colours)
Europe Comics
November 20, 2019

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Graphic designer Rose isn’t exactly enjoying her job, or her life. But when her father dies, leaving his beloved bakery Brav Eo to her, Rose gets a second chance at life and love. Will she take it?

Days of Sugar and Spice Cover. Loïc Clément and Anne Montel, Europe Comics. November 2019.

As someone who loves watching cooking shows—even though I can’t cook very well—the premise of Days of Sugar and Spice definitely appealed to my palate. A story about someone rediscovering themselves through food? Sign me up!

There are a smattering of pages in Days of Sugar and Spice that will appeal to the culinary-minded. One particular page featuring Rose’s aunt Marronde making tomato soup was a delight to behold. I love watching the process of ingredients being combined to make a delicious dish, and in a comic book, that process becomes so much more defined and enticing.Days of Sugar and Spice Page 28. Loïc Clément and Anne Montel, Europe Comics. November 2019.

I’m not asking for a recipe book, but Days of Sugar and Spice seemed to promise more culinary perfection than it delivered. I feel this way because the book focused far too much on the romance aspect of the story. Rose and her childhood sweetheart Gael rekindle their affection when Rose returns to her hometown, Klervi. But there was very little chemistry between the characters—and you can definitely see chemistry in comic books, just like you can see in film!

For the most part, Rose and Gael came across as two friends—there seemed to be little romantic affection between them, so their romance felt shoe-horned in. Gael’s over-friendliness with Rose, despite them not having seen each since they were nine (they are likely in their late twenties by now) sometimes came across as creepy, almost bordering on assault. How is someone that touchy-feely with a person they haven’t seen in nearly twenty years?

The focus on the romance between Rose and Gael also took away from the relationships that should have been the crux of Days of Sugar and Spice—such as Rose and her father, who she realises she had more in common with than she had ever expected. The other relationship that falls by the wayside is the connection between Rose and Marronde. As a child, Rose would have been close to Marronde because the two of them spent a great deal of time in the bakery. But Rose also hasn’t seen Marronde since she was nine. How is it that she is still so close to Marronde? The affection that aunt and niece share is more obvious than the relationship between Gael and Rose, but Days of Sugar and Spice failed to bask in that bond for very long.

Gael’s inclusion in this story is even more frustrating because, despite the number of female characters here, Days of Sugar and Spice doesn’t pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test. Every conversation between female characters devolves into discussions about whether or not Rose is in love with Gael, whether Rose is sleeping with her boss—she was and that’s probably why he’s making her life at work miserable—or about her father and how much he loved Rose. The Bechdel-Wallace Test is a really basic requirement for stories, and the fact that this book doesn’t pass it is nothing short of a travesty.

But as if these points weren’t enough to frustrate my reading of this book, there were a handful of moments that seriously weirded me out. For one, the book opens with Rose getting annoyed with a client who doesn’t like her artwork because he thinks it is too gay. Coming across that on the first page made me think I was going to get some queer representation in this book. Guess what? Not a single queer character appears in this book. The whole exchange with Rose and the homophobic client was included just to show us how ‘woke’ Rose is. Well, Rose may be woke, but this book sure isn’t.

Then there’s this absolutely bizarre scene where three immigrants come to the Brav Eo and Rose’s friend Mei questions them about their refusal to drink wine. The immigrant trio are Muslims (two of them aren’t as devout as their third companion) and work at the vineyard. The third gentleman explains that it is haram and they shouldn’t be working there, but his two friends have no other employment options and have had to take the vineyard job. Fine, except, Mei then tries to explain that if the vineyards are considered haram, then several other aspects of French life and governance would also be considered haram, which would mean Muslims wouldn’t be able to live in France at all.

What did I just read? This scene makes Mei look ignorant of other cultures and religions, and it seems like the text is telling Muslims not to take their religious ideals so seriously if they want to be French. It’s such a disturbing passage to read that I had to go back to it a couple of times to understand it. I don’t know what the thinking behind this section was, but this was a troubling read.

And speaking of Mei, until she specifically mentioned that she had Japanese heritage, I couldn’t tell that she was of a different ethnicity than Rose. They both look alike, which is unfortunate, because Anne Montel’s art is striking in Days of Sugar and Spice, except for this character work which left much to be desired.

As much as I wanted to like Days of Sugar and Spice, the book was let down by its over-reliance on a central romance that failed to sizzle, and outdated notions of social justice that left a sour taste in my mouth.

Louis Skye

Louis Skye

A writer at heart with a fondness for well-told stories, Louis Skye is always looking for a way to escape the planet, whether through comic books, films, television, books, or video games. E always has an eye out for the subversive and champions diversity in media. Louis' podcast, Stereo Geeks, is available on all major platforms. Pronouns: E/ Er/ Eir