I loved *parts* of this book. Its lyricism, romance, humor. The story-within-a-story. The lively characters.
The food-as-love-and-life theme was pleasant (if a bit cliched: Working in a restaurant is not meditative, gentle work, and some passages border on food porn).
I found other things frustrating as well. For one, the narrator "voices" Sirine in such a blandly pleasant way that she begins to resemble, well, a dumb American. Why would Han fall in love with such a shallow woman? What does she have to recommend herself outside of her cooking skills and the blonde hair and pale skin that the author describes so admiringly? I lost most sympathy with Sirine about three-quarters of the way in. It doesn't help that the character is written with absolutely no insight into her own actions or feelings. And not just Sirine. None of the characters seem to have much sense of why they're acting as they do. It's as if each is possessed by some external, driving spirit. Was that intentional? It's not my cup of tea.
If it had a different narrator.
Nothing. I love her books.
No. She reads the text in a sing-song voice with no animation or inflection, more like a librarian at story hour than an actor giving a performance. Characters aren't given unique accents or voices, other than a generic dropping of the vocal range for male characters. I love Jane Gardam and it was so frustrating to find this book unlistenable. I couldn't get past the second or third chapter.
Could I have a refund?
I love this book! Amanda Root is a fantastic narrator...bringing each character to life. I relish my daily commutes, thanks to Jane Eyre. One of my favorite audiobooks ever.
Getting through this one was painful. The author wastes pages on ecstatic inventories of the excesses of the Napa "plutocrats" and "decamillionaries." Then he wastes more pages on long not-quite-believable quotes from all the "bohemians" fighting urban sprawl in Sonoma (does anyone really talk in such long, fully-formed monologues?). And in the end, I'm not sure what you end up with. There were no really meaningful insights into that classic struggle to control growth without impeding progress.
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