From the Booker Prize-nominated author of Three Strong Women: an elegant, hypnotic new novel about a legendary French female chef--the facts her life, the nearly ineffable qualities of her cooking, and the obsessive, sometimes destructive desire for purity of taste and experience that shaped her life.
Continuing her tradition of writing provocative fiction about fascinating women, here Marie NDiaye gives us the story of a Great Female Chef--a chef who was celebrated as one of the best in a world where men dominate, and the way that her pursuit of love, pleasure, and gustatory delights helped shape her life and career. Told from the perspective of her former assistant (and unrequited lover), now an aged chef himself, here is the story of a woman's quest to the front of the kitchen--and the extraordinary journey she takes along the way.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"The life and career of a majestically talented, intensely private master chef is narrated by her greatest admirer and loyal employee in NDiaye's engrossing psychological novel (following My Heart Hemmed In). Born in the early 1950s in the southwestern French town of Sainte-Bazeille, to a large, poor family, the Cheffe leaves school at 14 to work as a maid for the Clapeaus, a wealthy older couple who "loved eating with a fervent, unrelenting love." She finds her calling in replacing the Clapeaus' vacationing cook and goes on to devote herself to cooking, moving through kitchens "with the kind of controlled, dynamic, galvanizing intentness that attracted miraculous ideas" and eventually opening her own award-winning restaurant. But this single-mindedness is also the source of painful lifelong conflict between the Cheffe and her only daughter, whom the narrator resents for what he sees as ingratitude. Deeply in love with the taciturn Cheffe, who makes him her confidante but doesn't return his feelings, the narrator acknowledges his bias but insists on the accuracy of his insights. Like the Cheffe's recipes, at first tantalizingly simple but eventually so austere they threaten to "tumble into fruitlessness" and become useless, the narrator's efforts to describe the Cheffe's mind and heart are both enthralling and fundamentally unreliable as a record of her life. Readers will be consumed by this tale of talent and obsession, even as the Cheffe herself remains both fascinating and mysterious. (Oct.)"
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