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Book Review of Gourmet Rhapsody

Gourmet Rhapsody
Gourmet Rhapsody
Author: Muriel Barbery
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Paperback
reviewed on + 289 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4

Gourmet Rhapsody is a very fitting title for this pre-quel of sorts to The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Originally published six years prior, Gourmet Rhapsody takes place during the imminent death of 7, Rue de Grenelle resident Pierre Arthens. With 48 hours left to live, the world renowned food critic is frantically rummaging his memory for that Flavor he wishes to re-taste before he dies, so he takes the reader through a non-chronological visit down memory lane with elegant, vivid descriptions of delicious food and the simple pleasures in life. Barbery's language, marvelously translated from the French by Alison Anderson, is the highlight of the novel. His mental wanderings are interspersed with brief chapters of those around him reacting to his imminent demise. I found this first novel less satisfying than Hedgehog because of its monotonous plot structure and the less-than-sympathetic protagonist. Although professionally successful, Arthens is a man who does not love his children, ignores his wife, and dislikes dogs—a far cry from the charming concierge Renee who makes a cameo appearance. As such, his trial as a gourmand Ivan Ilyich seemed less compelling.