Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

With a quirky title, a slice of cake on the cover, and a main character who can taste other people's emotions in the food they make, this is definitely a book that will intrigue a lot of people, especially those who read and enjoyed Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate so many years ago. Rose is just a child when she can suddenly taste her mother's despair in the lemon cake she has baked that day. And it's not just her mother's feelings, she can now taste the emotions of anyone who has cooked anything she eats. This is such an unsettling gift that she starts relying solely on highly processed foods. While she can pinpoint the places that all the ingredients originated and the factory in which the food was produced, there's less human contact and therefore less disappointment, sorrow, and unhappiness for her to taste. Rose's new and unusual talent highlights the dysfunction, secrets, and unhappiness surrounding her family and as she grows up, the quiet desperation continues to run through their lives singly and as a family.

This melancholic novel seems to inspire reviews from both ends of the spectrum, love it and hate it. I didn't love it but I liked it fine up until the end, at which point I wanted to throw it across the room. So I guess my reaction encompasses both reactions all in one. I guess I can only stretch credulity so far before I snap and the resolution with Rose's brother Joseph took me one step too far. The tone of the book was definitely depressing and the characters practiced avoidance far more frequently than they made any meaningful connection with each other. And only Rose, when she could bring herself to eat their food, could tell at all what was in each person's heart and head. The constant strivings of quiet desperation could be a tad overwhelming at times, the pacing of the book was uneven, and the plot was a bit thin. Overall, given my final impression, I was disappointed but there is definitely much food for thought included here amongst the dysfunction.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review.

9 comments:

  1. I can't decide about this one. Sometimes I like books that elicit strong feelings with their endings, whether they be good or bad, but I still am unsure.

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  2. Oh, sorry to hear you wanted to chuck it at the end. I haven't read it but I've seen very mixed reviews. Thanks for giving your honest review.

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  3. I didn't like this one at all -- your review nicely sums up my reasons for disliking it. Unlike you, though, I wanted to throw the book against the wall after part 2.

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  4. Every book seems to need a quirky title these days. Whilst I enjoy cake as much as the next person, I don't know about chocolate icing on lemon cake as a concept. Still I'd be willing to give it a crack.

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  5. I love the premise of this book and have wanted to read it for awhile. There are a lot of mixed reviews out there so I think I'm going to wait until it's in paperback.

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  6. Sorry it was frustrating for you. I liked it.

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  7. I have read a lot of positive reviews for this book & just a few less positive. But I haven't been able to decide whether I really want to read this book although I think I probably will at some point. The premise seems a little odd to me & the little girl's life seems sad & somewhat despairing with a lot of dysfuction in her family. I really don't like when I'm enjoying a book well enough & the ending is disappoiting or worse, ifnuriating. I'm sorry you experieced that. It's disconcertign. Well, unless I wi this book & even if I do, I think I will wait a while to read it!

    ~ Amy

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  8. I've been looking forward to reading this book after reading mostly good reviews. I think I'll still check it out, but I'm glad I've read your thoughts about it.

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  9. Great post, I am almost 100% in agreement with you

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