Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pierre Athens is a renowned food critic who is givin 48 hours to live. He remembers something that he tasted years ago when he was a youth, long before he became a food critic. The taste was the single thing he has been looking to find again for years and now that his life is ending he is desperate to find it.
After reading The Eloquence of the Hedgehog, I was anxious to read this. The story was written after Eloquence, but it takes place before it in the same apartment building. So far it is pretty good.
You can't read this book very fast. The sentences are complicated and there is an abundant use of metaphors that need to be understood and related to in order to get any meaning. The writing is very precise with each sentence often written to evoke a specific image without which, there is no meaning to the text. I have to stop myself and reread some passages because I realize that I have not kept up with the metaphors and have no idea where the text is going. At first, this seems tiresome because I want to finish the book and then I remind myself that this author is trying to create, for her readers, all of the sensory details of the taste of a food.
I've learned something from this book. Here's an example. When I was a child and visiting Mississippi one year there was a bumper crop of watermelons. There were so many that we went in the fields and broke melons open and only ate the heart. I have since eaten scores of watermelons and none ever tasted that good no matter where I got them. From this book I realized that it wasn't just the melons, it was the combination of sensations that made them the best I would ever taste. I was young and playing in the fields and creeks and I brought to the watermelon a desire for the taste, the wetness and the coolness that I will never have again. The watermelon was at its peak and had just been plucked from the vine. There was a wild abandonment in breaking it open on the sandy ground and digging out the heart that I will never experience again. It wasn't just the taste of the watermelon that I would need to create, it would be the whole experience. That is what Pierre Athens is looking for.
This was extremely interesting. At first, I didn't think the conclusion worked, but after thinking about it, it was perfect. The language was beautiful. There were so many sentences I wanted to read again and again just for the sheer pleasure of the words. This is not a book for everyone, but I enjoyed it and I think it left me changed.
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