©2008 Erica Baurmeister; (P)2008 Penguin
English major. Love to read
This is a wonderful book for these times - a way to remember to slow down, appreciate what we have and just forget for a few hours the bad news we hear every day. It is beautifully recorded and the writing is superb. Its sensuality is another example of what a treat it is to listen to a book.
I love a good ensemble story but this book seemed to meander without a satisfying conclusion to any of the characters. I stuck with it because I hoped it would have a strong ending but was sadly disappointed. I think Bauermeister would have benefitted from focusing more on one character and adding something substantial to the narrative,
I have always been a fan of novels that weave food into the narrative - some of the recipes sounded delicious but I would still recommend Chocolat and Garden Spells over this one.
A review by Marcia Stacy
The reader was certainly very sensual, and it brought the whole concept of food and the smells, textures, taste and preparation into sharp focus. A delicious read. I would not recommend it to men who don't cook, they would be bored. Our book club loved it and we re-created the turkey dinner, it was wonderful!
Coffee and a Book Chick
Recently, I mentioned that Cassandra Campbell was fast becoming one of my favorite narrators for audio books. There is an atmosphere her voice creates, light and humorous (as in Very, Valentine) or mournful and haunting (as in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks). It's always perfect for the story. So when Sandy at You've GOTTA Read This! commented that I should pick up The School of Essential Ingredients, I did. When it comes to audio, Sandy's an exceptional guide.
I'm never going to get tired of books about cooking food and living life. I love it. The connection of recipes, knowing which spice should go with which dish, and how that translates back to relationships, loss, and love, will fit the bill for me every time, and this story did not disappoint.
The story is told by the eight students taking a cooking class on Monday evenings, their personal stories and memories meaningfully unfolding for the listener. There is humor, tragedy, sadness, loss, and newly found love. Usually, when there are more than three or four characters sharing their stories, it can become overwhelming or confusing, or one character may be completely uninteresting, but not so with this story. All of the characters contributed a significant part of their lives, and not one was overdone, or wasted, or skipped over. It all fit.
At the heart of it is Lillian, the instructor and owner of the restaurant where the classes are held. She, too, has a quietly compelling story, one that has shaped her with whom she has become. She was an exceptional character, the rock of knowledge for each of the students, quickly learning what they needed to be taught. She is what kept them moving forward, both in their cooking skills and in life.
Erica Bauermeister's novel was released in 2009, and the story has such a sophisticated style that it's surprising it was a debut novel. It's a story that will make you cry and laugh, but most importantly, it will remind you that living is about the here and now, and that while mistakes happen, the choice to never let a moment pass you by is clear. Love, and be loved, and do so with integrity and kindness.
While the school deals with the essential ingredients of cooking, it is by far the fundamental elements of living that are the most important lesson to be learned. I cannot wait to read (or listen to) Joy for Beginners which was released in June 2011.
Yes. It's short and light. Nice book for airplane or beach.
Soft empathetic narration.
This was a book club choice. I listened for a couple of hours and found that I really did not care about the characters or the story as a whole.
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