A bunch of short reviews

I am painfully behind in my reviews – the longer they go unwritten, the less likely it is to happen. These reviews hardly do justice to some of the books I’ve read (sorry Magda) but at the very least provide me with a record. Continue reading

The Postman’s Fiancée by Denis Theriault

The Postman’s Fiancée by Denis Thériault is a story about infatuation, love, haiku, and identity.

Tania moves from Bavaria to Montreal to fine-tune her French and fall in love. Waitressing at a restaurant frequented by ‘regulars’, she meets Bilodo, a shy postman who writes haiku and who is passionate about calligraphy.

He came through the door every day at noon, impeccable in his postman’s uniform. He was tall, rather thin and not exactly handsome, but his gentle eyes and timid smile made Tania go weak inside. Continue reading

The Lover by Marguerite Duras

Marguerite Duras’s The Lover is the second book I’ve read in as many weeks that’s a memoir, thinly disguised as a novel (the other being by Lily Brett).

The story is set in Saigon in the 1930s, and describes the tumultuous affair between a relatively poor adolescent French girl and her wealthy, older Chinese lover. Interspersed between details of their clandestine meetings are descriptions of the unnamed narrator’s mother – headmistress of a girls’ high school and prone to bouts of depression, and her wayward brothers. Continue reading

The Son by Michel Rostain

the-son-michel-rostain

We’ve never had a child, we have them forever. (Marina Tsvetaïeva)

Who can judge a father’s memoir, a story of losing an only child to meningitis? No one. And I’m almost reluctant to write a review of any sort.

Despite the blurb that it is not a a book about death, but that it’s a book about life, Michel Rostain’s story, The Son, is devastatingly sad. The shocking and sudden circumstances in which his 21 year old son, Lion, died – feeling unwell for a few days, a fever, then death – are raw, chaotic and incomprehensible. Continue reading

‘The Gourmet’ by Muriel Barbery

My first question is ‘Why isn’t Muriel Barbery herself a food critic?’ – her descriptions of food in The Gourmet are exquisite.

As the world’s most celebrated food critic, Pierre Arthens, lays dying in his plush Parisian apartment (the same apartment building of The Elegance of the Hedgehog fame), his mind turns to key culinary moments in his past. Having eaten at the finest restaurants and drunk the best wines, Pierre is desperate to recall the most delicious food ever to pass his lips. All he wants is one last taste.

“How ironic! After decades of grub, deluges of wine and alcohol of every sort, after a life spent in butter, cream, rich sauces, and oil in constant, knowingly orchestrated and meticulously cajoled excess, my trustiest right-hand men, Sir Liver and his associate Stomach, are doing marvelously well and it is my heart that is giving out. I am dying of cardiac insufficiency. What a bitter pill to swallow.”

“I’m going to die and there is a flavour that has been teasing my taste buds and my heart and I simply cannot recall it. I know that this particular flavour is the first and ultimate truth of my entire life, and that it holds the key to a heart that I have since silenced… and original, marvellous dish that predates my vocation as a critic, before I had any desire or pretension to expound on my pleasure in eating.” Continue reading