Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Review: Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery

I wish I could have gotten my hands on a French copy of this novel. I hate reading literature in translation, but given my current hilariously-bad-state-of-finances-imposed book-buying diet, purchasing French editions from Amazon.fr is sort of out of the question. Luckily, the translator did a really good job of preserving French syntax and used a French cognate-laden vocabulary, which helped to take the edge off.

Gourmet Rhapsody depicts the final days of a famous food critic, who is kind of an awful person. He's managed to alienate most of his family at some point or other (with the notable exception of the cat), and all of his family, whose narratives are interspersed with his, must wrestle with his effects on their lives and negotiate how they're going to cope with his death. Meanwhile, the critic digs through his memories, searching for the final, elusive flavor that he must experience before he dies.

I can see why Muriel Barbery has become so popular. Her writing style is effervescent and refreshing, providing the reader with tons of detail without becoming bogged down in endless side narratives of description. Moreover, she is able to transition cleanly and cogently from one viewpoint to the next without jarring the reader. This is quite difficult to execute; a number of otherwise good books I have read have fallen prey to this. Most importantly, though, is her ability to render even the most irascible and complicated characters into something sympathetic, even lovable. I'm really looking forward to reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

Lovely. Want to read it in French. 5 out of 5 stars.


  1. I really LOVED this book, too. I think I gave it 5 stars as well, come to think of it.

    I actually read The Elegance of the Hedgehog before reading this. Hedgehog was released in the US first, but is actually a sort-of sequel to Gourmet Rhapsody.

    I'm sure eventually you can find it in French. Maybe check ebay as well? Amazon.com actually has the book in French used for under $10 under the French title Une Gourmandise

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