The History of Sweets written by Paul Chrystal and published by Pen & Sword Books – £25.00 – Hardback – Pages 256

We all know our sweets. We all remember sweets – objects of pure delight and the endless cause of squabbles, fights even, hoarding and swapping; a chance to gorge, suck, crunch and chew. But they’re by no means just a nostalgic thing of days past, and it’s not only children who love and devour sweets – gobstoppers, bulls eyes, liquorice, seaside rock, bubble gum and the like; grown-ups of all ages are partial to a good humbug, or a lemon sherbet or two – in the car, (annoyingly) at the cinema or while out walking – wherever and whenever, the sweet is there, the sweet delivers and the sweet rarely disappoints.

Sweets then are ubiquitous and enduring; they cross age, culture and gender boundaries and they have been around, it seems, forever. This book tells the story of sweets from their primitive beginnings to their place today as a billion pound commodity with its sophisticated, seductive packaging and sales, advertising and marketing. It explores the people’s favourites, past and present; but there is also a dark side to sweets – and this book does not shy away from the deleterious effect on health as manifested in obesity, tooth decay and diabetes. It delves into sweet and lollyshops in supermarkets and markets, retro sweet shops, fudge makers, vintage sweets online, sweet manufacturing, chocolate, the grey line between sweets and ‘medicines’ ancient and modern. It goes round the world sucking, licking and crunching sweets from different countries and cultures and it examines how immigrants from all nations have changed our own sweet world.

As I read this book I have been slowly eating my way through a bag of old-fashioned pear drops, which I thought appropriate as we were reading about old-fashioned sweets. What a fantastic book as it’s so comprehensive and fun. The book covers almost everything about sweets from how they were made, where they were made and which company made them, with a history. It really does cover the history of each sweet, it’s origins and even provides a lot of publicity, advertising and media around the sweets too. But also it’s not just British sweets that are covered in the book, but also international sweets and how they performed in the British market. This book covers mainly sweets and not so much chocolate which I understand is covered in another book, but this book has to be the go to book if you’re into your sweet confectionary history.