This was a different book from the type I usually listen. It had an interesting plot and the main character was personable.
I really enjoyed the descriptions of the food. It made me hungry.
I think the aunts would be interesting dinner companions.
I definitely recommend the book.
I had no idea that there was so much philosophy and symbolism in Chinese cooking. In the 70’s I had a friend that came from behind the iron curtain in China and he was a Chief. He gave me several recipes that I use to this day but they are much easier to prepare than the recipes described in this book. The recipes that he gave me I have never seen in a cookbook. He never told me of the philosophy and symbolism.
The American food critic in the book was use to writing about American foods and knew nothing about Chinese cooking; so like me she was intrigued by the entire scenario. Loved the story and the way the author intergraded the food, history, culture and attitudes into the plot.
The narrator was okay. She had the pronunciations down pat but when she switched to some of the male voices I was not always sure which character was speaking.
Before you even start listening.........go buy Chinese food. And I'm not talking.......any kind. Spend good money on good food. You are going to want to eat AMAZING GREAT CHINESE FOOD as you listen........great book.
In "The Last Chinese Chef" author Nicole Mones presents a glimpse into another corner of what we westerners often consider a veiled and mysterious culture. Mones' other credits include "A Cup of Light" and "Lost in Translation" (no relation to the film of the same name). I gave the main narrator Elisabeth Rodgers 4 stars for having the guts to tackle pronunciation of the names and terminology. Her portrayal of the book's characters was quite capable but not memorable. Co-narrator James Chen provides the "intro" to each chapter, reading excerpts from the fictitious book for which the novel is named.
In "Chef", Mones' central character Maggie McElroy is a writer for a popular food magazine whose own personal tragedy results in a journey of discovery into Chinese life and culture, and particularly food. The author draws heavily on her own experience and knowledge gained through many years of living in and writing about it as a contributor to Gourmet magazine. Her wealth of knowledge on the subject lends greatly to the authenticity of the story and also gives this book what I consider its strongest credit.
While the characters are all fairly well developed, the storyline is thin and predictable. However, the story does provide the basis for the rich and detailed descriptions of Chinese cuisine and its surprisingly integral and inextricable ties to the culture. This is the book's true strength. If you are a foodie, you will be enraptured by the detailed descriptions of the various dishes that are focal to the story. If you love history and learning about other cultures, you will find much to enjoy here. If you are a fan of both food and history... well stop reading this and go get "The Last Chinese Chef". Just make sure you read on a full stomach, or you'll soon be calling out for delivery!
This book is an interesting combination of information about Chinese food and cooking and a trite romantic story. The lovely story of the food kept me until the end, but I wouldn't recommend this to anyone because the other part of the story dominates. The narrator of the romance novel is awful, but I couldn't tell if she was a poor reader or simply had unreadable material to cope with. It's been a long time since I have listened to anything so terribly written. No one talks like these characters do, and nothing in the real world happens as it does in this book. The narrator of the Chinese food parts of the book does better, but the writing is also better.
I don't know why I picked this book up in the first place since this is not my typical listen, but I am glad I did. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I enjoyed the historical aspect of the communist impact to food and culture in general in China and the recent resurgence of the food culture. The author's description of widowhood were spot on in several places -- little things that most people don't think about, unless you have experienced it, rang true.
Unfortunately, I think this is a book that is better read than listened to, especially is you speak Mandarin. Elisabeth's reading of this book was disappointing for several reasons.
First, her reading cadence was off. It's not exactly flat but the rhythm is all off. It was difficult to get into the flow of the story for several chapters. Second, she should have spent some time learning to pronounce the very few Mandarin words that were scattered around the book. Even if you can get past the cadence, you get jarred out of the story by her pronunciation of the Mandarin words.
Despite the performance, I'm glad I persevered. It is a lovely story.
I started this audio book during a long drive. I think I bought it at one of the Audible sales, and often those turn out to be major duds. This lovely audio book was a complete delight.
The story was engaging, with believable characters with real emotions and concerns. Somehow the author manages to share everyone's viewpoint without making it a jumble of characters with juggled story lines which often leaves me confused and not particularly engaged with any of them. Each character's story is human, believable and plays a major role in helping us understand as the story unfolds.
No spoilers here, listen for yourself. It's a joy, an easy listen, yet deep in many places.
I loved how she wove actual Chinese into the story, though the lack of tone used by the narrator meant it was always a little off, and though set in Beijing, no Beijing accent applied. Still I loved the simple story. Not complex or too surprising but compelling enough to get to the end in a few sittings. Makes me want to track down some of the references to poems and foods. I learned a new phrase: 油而不腻, meaning "taste of fat but not too greasy" a rare thing in average Chinese meals. But having been to China and experienced real food there, I appreciated the joyous exploration of food and relationships.