Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery

I really enjoyed Muriel Barbery's book The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It started slow but thanks to a precocious kid as a main character, it ended up being a real pleasure to read. So when I saw Gourmet Rhapsody took place in the same building that Elegance was set in, I was really excited about the possibility of an entertaining sequel.

The book is about a food critic living in the building who is on his deathbed. The chapters alternate between him and (mostly) people he knows. In his chapters, he recalls meals he has had as he searches for something he craves but cannot quite place. In the other chapters, we find out more about what a jackass he is. That's assuming that you can't figure it out from the fact that the guy is on his deathbed and only cares about finding something to eat. The hell with the actual people in his life who care about him.

It turns out that he has pretty much always been that way. People don't matter to him. Food does. When the book concludes, he seems to have come to a bit of a realization about himself but by that point, I didn't really care.

I also didn't care for the style of the book. Despite every other chapter being told from the point of view of someone else in his life, they don't sound different at all. Everyone, male or female, young or old, has the same vocabulary and tone. Nitpicking?

When the guy's cat says, "I would instantly jump up onto my velvet paws and make a beeline for the hall and there, on the somewhat ochre kilim, between the coat rack and the marble console, I would wait obediently", you have to wonder. Most cats I know say things like "Meow". Most people I know don't know what the word kilim means (and Blogger thinks it is spelled wrong) and I'm to believe that this learned cat knows? Why isn't the cat performing heart surgery and saving his master for crying out loud?

All in all, I didn't like it. There were no character crossovers from Elegance of which I was aware which sort of made the whole point of keeping the setting the same a tad silly. No likable characters. A lack of discernible voices. Blah.

1 comment:

--Transfixed Ingress said...

Would you have preferred the cat to say 'on the somewhat moderate orange-yellow flat-woven Turkish carpet'?

Yeah, even that isn't very feline-ish. Yeah, you've sold me I'll pass on it.