When I finished Muriel Barbery’s novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog, I wanted to hug it to my chest and carry it about.
Instead, I told everyone how great the book was and that they simply had to read it. If possible in French because as charming as it is in the English translation, it seemed so sly to me that I was sure the original language would reveal even greater cleverness. So far, I haven’t heard whether this is true or not.
After that, I looked forward to Barbery’s Gourmet Rhapsody (translated by Alison Anderson), written before Hedgehog but published here in the States later. The reviews were not great and I hesitated. “Read it,” said my sister who had read Hedgehog on my recommendation. So I did.
What a delicious feast of a book. I listened to it. Twice. And I’m sorry I don’t own a print version because the language–oh the language! If you like to cook, you will be underlining things you want to try yourself. If you write about food, you will tear your hair out. Muriel Barbery has done it brilliantly.
And if you like mysteries, you will read and reread the book, collecting clues, as you follow the seemingly zigzag path through the narrator’s food memories. He is a great and revered restaurant critic in France. He knows he will die in 24 hours, but he is haunted by a forgotten flavor. Will he find it before the final curtain?