THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE, BY AIMEE BENDER
One of my best friends recommended this one to me, a (really) long time ago. She warned me it was "a bit pretentious", but she still enjoyed it. Maybe it was the warning about pretentiousness that put me off reading it for so long, but I thought it was about time to do it.
Synopsis: While cooking with her mother, Rose, a soon-to-be 9-year-old girl, discovers she can taste the emotions of whoever cooked the meal in her food. She soon discovers much more than she wanted to know about people, especially her mother. Finding out how to grow up and live with it, though, proves to be a more difficult task.
Overall enjoyment: My friend was right about the pretentiousness, but she was also right about my enjoyment. This book has "literary" written all over it, with her refusing to use quotation marks to separate speech from narration and the ending witch is not an ending. Still, there's such sensitivity in the writing, such imagination, such care with the characters that I couldn't help but like it.
Plot: It keeps you going, but the story doesn't end. I'm usually very bothered by it (this is the kind of thing that will make me throw a book out of the window in anger), but in this case it fits. Although there's so much focus on other characters, it is Rose's story above all else, of how she learns to live with herself. It's only natural that the story wouldn't end right when she does.
Characters: Very well-written and interesting. Which is a good thing, since so much of the story depends on them.
World/setting: It was fascinating to read the taste panorama she writes in the second half of the book, how Rose starts experiencing the world through taste.
Writing style: I really have to say, GRAMMAR AND PUNCTUATION EXIST FOR A REASON. I can't tell you how much I hate to read things written in this "experimental" writing; where writers decide to ignore them to make a "statement" or to "stand out". It's nothing more than a gimmick. This may be due to having had to read so many books like that in Literature classes (God, how I hate José Saramago). Also, in my experience, this kind of gimmicky writing is usually accompanied by a painful lack of content: uninteresting, unimaginative and badly developed plots, unlikable and one-dimensional characters, pretentiousness dripping from every page. Thankfully, this was not the case. Still, I'm sure I would have liked the book more if she had just used quotations to separate speech from narration.
Representation: There are very few characters, since the story is so focused in Rose's family. Still, George, Rose's brother's best friend, is said to have a black mother. There are also many female characters.
Political correctness: It is kind of a coming-of-age story for girls. It's hidden under a lot of symbolism, but it's there, and it's beautifully done. I especially like how, at first, Rose deliberately ignores the obvious answer to her problems, which would be cooking for herself. After all, if she's going to be assaulted by the cook's feelings whenever she eats, she might as well figure her own in the process. Throughout the book, she's always caught up on other people's feelings and how to help them; in the end, the solution to her problem is to worry about her own.
Up next: Secrets to the Grave, by Tami Hoag